Jul 23 , 2012
It’s an exciting time for Avista’s Smart Grid Demonstration Project in the Pullman area.
We’ve spent the last two years building the foundation to create two-way, real-time communication between customer meters and Avista. Now that the infrastructure is in place, we’re recruiting customers to participate in Avista’s Smart Thermostat Pilot.
What’s the Smart Thermostat Pilot?
Pullman customers who meet specific criteria can volunteer to participate in the pilot and receive a free thermostat with advanced capabilities. This thermostat lets participants actively monitor and manage energy usage online and make more informed decisions about how to use energy.
As part of the study, pilot participants allow Avista to remotely adjust their smart thermostat within a range of two degrees, for a period of ten minutes to a maximum of 24 hours. This study will help us understand how to balance power supply and demand within the region.
People are signing up
Avista recently held a focus group to share information about the Smart Thermostat Pilot. At the end of the meeting, half of the attendees signed up on the spot to participate. Others wanted to participate, but couldn’t due to various personal reasons.
Why did they agree to participate? Here’s what they said:
“This totally makes sense. It’s going to enable us to monitor
our energy usage and look for ways to fine-tune things. We
don’t want to waste energy.” Cherise Lloy, First participant to
“It’s nice that the thermostat has software to get a better
handle on energy use. I’d like to use less energy.” Jim
Bonner, Smart Thermostat Pilot participant
“We’re very budget oriented and don’t want to waste. We’re
also fascinated by how the research will be used to inform
what the future holds.” Judi Dunn & Jeff Gray, Smart
Thermostat Pilot participants
“We’re so spoiled with abundant hydro-electricity. But
demand for electricity keeps growing. I’m curious to look at
my usage data. I think we have to manage electricity.”
Madeline Martin, Smart Thermostat Pilot participant
As you can see, people have different reasons for participating. Recruitment efforts are continuing as we work toward September, when Battelle NW begins testing the technology to show how the electric grid can react to sudden changes in power supply and demand.
Through studies like this, Avista can assess how smart grid technology will enhance the safety, reliability and efficiency of energy delivery on a regional level and how customers and the utility will interact with new online energy usage information.
Jun 08 , 2012
Avista is powering a future workforce through construction and training at Jack Stewart Training Facility
Shown above is employees at Avista
preparing for the installation of the
pad mount switchgear, which will
energize the training substation at the
Jack Stewart Training Facility.
Avista employees have been hard at work building a new training substation at Avista’s Jack Stewart Training Facility scheduled to go online in August. Just last week, they reached a major milestone in the project when they installed an on-and-off switch to energize the substation. These updates to Avista’s facilities will prepare our current and future workforce for the technology they will need to maintain and operate the smart grid of the future.
The future substation will energize Safety Town at Jack Stewart. Safety Town is a small, 10-building lot representing a typical residential neighborhood. Safety Town prepares gas and electric apprentices, journeymen and pre-line school students for real-life scenarios they would encounter while working on distribution service.
The connected facilities will create an authentic training environment that will simulate outage conditions, and test smart grid devices used to isolate different sections of the electric system – all with the goal of minimizing power outages and improving reliability.
An Interactive Curriculum
Part of the Workforce Training Project includes developing a web-based, interactive curriculum. With the help of Avista’s subject matter experts, the updated curriculum will include smart grid features and practices our industry workforce will need to learn.
About the Workforce Training Project
Shown above is a switch
mechanism on the junction box
which will simplify some steps to
energize the training substation
being built at Jack Stewart.
The Workforce Training Project is part of the triad of smart grid projects Avista has been working on over the past few years after being awarded matching stimulus grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. The other two smart grid projects are Spokane Smart Circuits and the Smart Grid Demonstration Project in Pullman.
The Workforce Training Project was made possible thanks to a partnership between Avista, the Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy Smart Grid project, along with several utilities and colleges in the region. The partnership was infused with a $5 million grant from the Department of Energy to develop the Workforce Training Project.
As our industry continues to evolve, new “smart” technologies will present challenges and opportunities for the existing and future workforce. New jobs and skill sets will emerge. Thanks to the Workforce Training Program, Avista has positioned itself to train this workforce of the future.
May 30 , 2012
Over the past few years, we’ve heard from our customers and employees that they want more information on how we do business in areas like utility operations, environmental stewardship and our community impact. We’re glad you asked!
That information and more is available in our fourth annual report on our performance, “Together We Will Build Shared Value,”
now online at avistautilities.com.
Our primary mission is to provide the energy you need for your life. The back story is all about what goes into providing that energy and how often this has additional benefits to the customers and communities we serve. That’s shared value.
In this year’s report, we tell many stories of how shared value is created throughout our business. For example, in the Utility Operations section we talk about how Avista must meet state-mandated energy savings targets. As part of our sustainable business practices, the report is published online
We’ve made PDF files available of the entire report and four of its sections for your convenience in sharing the report with others.
Shared value is at the heart of what Avista does every day. We hope you’ll take the time to read this year’s report and give us your feedback
. We want to hear from you about how – together – we can continue to build shared value.
May 04 , 2012
Thanks to new Smart Grid technology, approximately 6,500 Pullman customers can now access their real-time energy usage simply by logging onto their “My Avista” account. It’s the latest milestone in Avista’s Smart Grid Demonstration Project that’s underway in Pullman.
Avista has joined with regional partners, led by Battelle, to develop a smart grid demonstration project using matching stimulus funds from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The intent of the demonstration project is to show how smart grid technology can enhance the safety, reliability and efficiency of energy delivery on a regional and national level.
The past two years have been spent designing, constructing and installing complex technology, including advanced meters, in the Pullman area that create the foundation for secure, two-way, wireless communication between customer meters and Avista.
As part of the demonstration project, Avista recently started a one-year study designed to test whether access to energy usage information has any potential impact on peoples’ behavior.
Approximately 6,500 randomly-selected customers in the Pullman area were given access to a special advanced meter web portal that lets them view their energy usage down to the hour, make adjustments and start saving energy based on their energy choices and behavior. They can see charts and graphs that track changes or trends and make more informed decisions about how to use energy.
The remaining customers in the Pullman area will not have access to the special Advanced Meter Web Portal until April 2013 when the study period concludes.
Studies like this are helping Avista learn how new technologies can enhance the safety, reliability and efficiency of energy delivery for all of our customers.
Feb 02 , 2012
Attention and care for customer's bungalow and garden were integral to Smart Circuits project
Avista crews took careful measures recently to ensure
no damage was done to a customer’s historic 1912
bungalow and garden during the installation of a
utility pole nearby. The work was part of Avista’s
Smart Circuits project. We listened to our customer’s
concerns and modified our plan to everyone’s
satisfaction. It might be a big project, but we know
how much each interaction matters.
Poles and electric wires – up above, down below, on the street and by your home. It’s a necessity, and a fundamental part of our business. So every day, Avista is out in neighborhoods placing poles and wires, or replacing them as they age or when new technology comes out to serve you better.
The work we do could literally be in your own back yard – and we want you to be happy with it. Such was the case with Avista customers, Jim and Ann Price, whose historic 1912 bungalow and garden in Spokane had to be accessed in order to place a new pole in a utility easement on his property. The job also entailed removing a very old pole from an adjoining lot.
This specific work, which is part of the Spokane Smart Circuits project
, is part of a design to replace large power lines that connect different areas of our system on the South Hill.
The couple was concerned about how Avista and other contractors were going to bring the equipment in on their property to place the pole. Typical equipment used to place power poles would not be able to negotiate the small gravel driveway without threatening irreparable harm to either the bungalow or the garden.
The Construction Project Coordinator for the project, John Hanna, took the time to listen to the couple and work with them.
“After listening to the Mr. Price’s concerns, I assured him of two things,” Hanna said. “First, he would be informed of our plan throughout the entirety of the project, and secondly, we were not done until he was satisfied.”
Hanna, along with a team consisting of Avista Real Estate Representative Claude Kahler, Electric Inspector Joe Vigliotta, Mountain Power Line Foreman Rick Larson, and Asplundh Tree Foreman Steve Guiterez and Work Planner Zeb Rosenthal worked with the customer and created an alternative plan.
According to Jim Price, "The men devoted a great deal of time and attention to seeing that care of our property was an important part of the project ... all of the workers were pleasant, considerate and informative."
Workers dug the hole for the pole by hand and with a jackhammer, instead of using an excavator as they normally would. Aside from a small cart and crane to transport and place the pole, no other trucks or mechanical equipment entered the property.
From beginning to end, work caused minimal disruption and no damage to the bungalow or the customer's garden.
In addition, Hanna and the customer agreed that the best use of the customer’s pine tree that was removed during the project was to donate it as firewood to SNAP
. Hanna arranged for four supervised inmates from Geiger Correctional Facility to pick up and deliver the firewood to SNAP. He even surprised the inmates with doughnuts to say “thank you.”
The work done is a great example of how Avista employees work with customers, other businesses and the community to improve the quality of life and energy.
About Avista’s Smart Circuits project
Avista’s Smart Circuits project is all about upgrading electric facilities in the Spokane area to support the technologies of today and tomorrow. Ultimately, this work will result in greater energy efficiency in our delivery of energy. Improving our equipment with smarter technology delays the need for new generation facilities, which is very costly to build. Upgrading our electric facilities with smarter technology also makes future integration of renewable generation resources possible. To learn more about our smart grid projects, visit www.avistautilities.com
, keyword: smart grid.
Feb 10 , 2011
An advanced meter that will be used on the
Washington State University student Tyler Slauson, of WSU’s Cable 8 News, recently produced the above video on Avista’s Pullman Smart Grid Project. The report provides a good overview of the project that will soon be ramping up in the community.
If you’re a WSU student or member of the community and would like us to feature your video, podcast or article about the smart grid project or anything else concerning Avista or energy, send us an e-mail here at the Avista Blog
to make it happen.
Jan 24 , 2011
Community members learned about Avista's pullman smart grid project at a meeting on January 24, 2011.
Advanced meters to be installed in Pullman and Albion, Washington
Avista and its project partners, including Battelle, updated Pullman community leaders on the Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration Project today and outlined project plans for 2011.
While the first year of the five-year project focused on updating and automating Pullman’s distribution system, the second year will primarily involve the installation of Itron advanced meters in the city of Pullman, Wash. and the community of Albion, Wash. Approximately 13,000 electric and 5,000 natural gas customers will have their meters upgraded to the new, digital meters, with some customers receiving both electric and natural gas meters. The new meters will be installed over several months beginning in March, 2011.
"The most important aspects of the
Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration
project are the advantages it can pote-
ntially create for our customers,” said
Heather Cummins, Avista’s director of
process improvement, who leads Avista’s
smart grid programs.
Advanced meters operate via a secure wireless network, allowing two-way, real-time communication between the customers’ meter and Avista, so Avista can provide information to customers about their ongoing energy usage through a secure website. Later this year, customers with advanced meters should be able to log into their Avista Utilities account and access additional enhanced web tools to monitor their energy usage throughout the month so they can make more informed decisions about their energy use.
“The most important aspects of the Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration project are the advantages it can potentially create for our customers,” said Heather Cummins, Avista’s director of process improvement, who leads Avista’s smart grid programs.
The advanced meters have the ability to automatically detect and report an outage at a customer’s home or business. The meters are part of an automated distribution system that reduces outage frequency and duration for all customers.
“Having outage information available almost instantly can help our crews to more quickly and efficiently restore power to our customers,” said Dan Johnson, Avista’s Project Manager for the Pullman project.
A sneek peek at the advanced meters that
allow Avista's smart grid project to work.
Avista will notify customers who will be receiving the new meters with a letter over the next few weeks, and will continue to update customers with information about the demonstration project and technology throughout the project. Customers can also find information online at avistautilities.com.
The Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration Project is part of the Pacific Northwest Grid Demonstration Project, led by Battelle, to demonstrate smart grid technologies using matching stimulus monies from the U.S. Department of Energy. Avista is leading the five-year Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration Project, and will contribute $14.9 million with its local partners contributing an additional $4 million to create a smart grid in Pullman.
“We envision the smart grid to be a more efficient and effective electricity infrastructure that can help contain costs, reduce emissions, incorporate renewable energy, increase power grid reliability and provide greater flexibility for consumers,” Cummins said. “Over the long-term, it could modernize our traditional, one-way power delivery system to an automated, two-way exchange of information and multi-directional power flow.”
Cost-share partners for the Pullman Project are Itron, Washington State University, Hewlett Packard and Spirae. Other partners include vendors and contractors such as Scope and Efacec Advanced Control Systems, who will provide product and services including equipment and installation. Many of the project’s smart grid devices incorporate relay devices produced by Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc., which remains a supportive contributor to the overall success of the SGDP project.
Jul 22 , 2010
Reading by candle light á la Ben Franklin? More like Kindle light á la the smart grid
The Amazon Kindle is just one of the many e-book
readers out there gaining popularity and allowing for
more interactivity while reading.
Post by Dan Kolbet
Last weekend I took my family to a local lake for a day at the beach. We fit in just like everyone else. Young kids, umbrella, packed lunches and the ever-present smell of sunscreen.
While our daughters played in the sand in front of us, my wife and I both pulled out books to pass the time. But here’s where we differ. My wife’s novel was of the “old fashioned” variety, or if you prefer, a printed book. I flipped on my Amazon Kindle DX, which allowed me to access more than just my current spy novel, but my entire library from the past year.
I made sure to charge up the device at home the night before – to make sure I wouldn’t get stuck with a dead battery halfway through the next action sequence. I wasn’t too worried. One charge of a few hours usually lasts me about two weeks. I made it through a few short chapters in between trips to the waves and games of catch with the kids.
This relatively inconsequential experience got me thinking more about how much I depend on electricity. Sure, if the lights go out during a storm, you can’t escape it. But to pass the time you might grab a book (á la Ben Franklin with a candle). Better make sure your e-book has some juice.
This week, Amazon noted that it currently sells more Kindle e-books than hardcover books.
The Kindle, Apple’s iPad, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, among others are continuing to grow in popularity and I would argue that they are more making reading more personal and enjoyable than ever before. No need to drive to your local store, browse pretty pictures on the covers of your books then commit to one, drive home and start reading only to find out this book isn’t for you. You can shop, sample and buy (or decide not to buy) from anywhere. You can set the font of your book to suit your tastes or visual needs. And you can carry your entire library with you all the time.
But you need one thing – electricity.
It’s true that you can plug in just about anywhere you go to get your e-book powered up, and thanks to the long battery life of these devices, you should be A-OK during storm season. But as these devices, or other electronics that we probably can’t imagine yet, become mainstream, our dependence on electricity will have saturated every aspect of our lives – even more than it is today. Just think of what your living room looked like 15 years ago. Did you have a DVR, laptop, DVD player, X-Box 360, smart phone, e-book or wireless modem, plugged in? I dare you to say yes. We just didn’t have access to this sort of technology for entertainment and communications back then.
And “back then” wasn’t that long ago. So what will your living room (or trip to the beach) look like 5, 10 or 15 years from today? I certainly don’t have an answer, but I know it will continue to rely on energy, and I’m glad Avista will be around to provide it.
We talk a lot about the smart grid and the future of energy. The definition of smart grid is really dependant on who is defining it, but I’d offer this – it’s about you having more control of your energy usage and your utility having better ways to deliver it. It will eventually provide choices for you to consider based on cost, source or whatever is important to you.
As common items like books, that have traditionally been non-electric, gain interactivity (and an electric charge), our use of energy will eventually seep into every aspect of our lives. From a ‘pursuit of happiness’ standpoint, that’s great, but there’s one thing that I urge you to remember: all these digital comforts have to be powered, so be smart about your usage. At the same time we’ll continue to plan for the future to make sure we can meet your needs.
May 28 , 2010
An Avista lineman installs a smart grid communications device on a streetlight.
Post & video by Dan Kolbet
Watch a 30-second video of the device install.
It’s great to see smart grid progress. And that’s just what was happening high above Avista’s Mission Campus (Spokane) parking lot this morning. We installed a wireless communication device - or radio – on a streetlight as part of our testing of the smart grid equipment we’ll be installing in our Spokane Smart Circuits project.
This device communicates to another device on our main building’s roof, which communicates to another one – and so on.
This wasn’t the first device we’ve ever installed, but it’s the first one I’ve seen. Word is that we’ll be installing a few more of these at our training facility in North Spokane soon to train our employees and test the system.
We’ll certainly have much more on the Spokane’s Smart Circuits project
as it progresses, but I couldn’t help but share this quick update.
Watch a 30 second video of the install.
Mar 30 , 2010
Avista crews adding new,
larger power lines to area
in North Spokane.
Post by Hugh Imhof
Avista’s Spokane Smart Circuits project
is officially off and rolling. On March 23, 2010 The U.S. Department of Energy and Avista signed off on an agreement that will start $20 million in investment grant funds flowing to our community.
The Department of Energy chose Avista’s smart grid project to receive the largest matching grant in Washington. Avista will contribute $22 million for a total planned project investment of $42 million. The overall project includes the deployment of a distribution management system, intelligent end devices and a communications network along 59 distribution circuits and 14 substations, which will benefit more than 110,000 electric customers
Since January Avista line crews have been preparing the distribution system for the new hardware and software additions that will be elements of the Smart Circuits project. The crews have upgraded power lines along 5.5 miles of the system.
The cross-arm extensions were
added to this utility pole, so crews
can add new, higher capacity power
lines, while keeping customers in
The new gear to be installed includes smart switches, transformers, regulators, communication devices, capacitors and more. It will take about two years to install all the new equipment and bring the system to functionality.
Once everything is completed, the project will reduce energy losses, lower system costs, increase reliability and enhance the ability to integrate distributed renewable generation resources. Customers will see fewer and shorter outages. The system efficiencies will save about 42,000 Megawatt hours a year and will prevent some 15,000 tons of carbon from being released into the atmosphere from power generation.
It is a complicated project involving many individuals and teams from throughout the company. In addition to technical design and engineering the project requires careful timing of purchasing, equipment staging, testing, training, crew scheduling, hiring personnel and much more.
We’ll post updated information about the project as it moves along further.