Jul 17 , 2013
Post by Dan Kolbet
Just last week Avista, First Wind and Vestas, along with more than 100 invited guests officially dedicated the first wind farm built in Avista’s service territory – Palouse Wind. The day also marked the celebration of the facility’s 150,000 megawatt hour of energy produced since the farm opened in December 2012.
On hand to kick off the event was Washington Governor Jay Inslee admired the lush landscape and said, “there’s probably not another place in the world today that’s producing more green electricity, surrounded by greener pea and wheat fields, generating more green economic activity for small rural communities, than right here at Palouse Wind.”
Since the Palouse Wind project went online, it has brought significant long-term tax revenue to Whitman County while generating enough clean energy to power the homes of about 30,000 Avista customers.
As the largest renewable energy facility in Whitman County, the 105 MW project features 58 state-of-the-art Vestas V100-1.8 MW turbines installed between the town of Oakesdale and State Route 195 on the hills surrounding Naff Ridge. During construction the Palouse Wind project pumped more than $25 million of direct spending into the regional economy and created hundreds of construction-related jobs and drove significant revenue for local businesses.
Avista is purchasing the energy produced by the Palouse Wind project under a 30-year power purchase agreement and is taking delivery of the power through a direct interconnection to Avista’s 230 kilovolt (kV) transmission line. This is the first wind project built in Avista’s service territory and it is helping Avista achieve its goal of providing reliable energy to its customers at a reasonable cost, while helping meet Washington state renewable portfolio standards, now and into the future.
Jul 01 , 2013
Avista coordinates mock electrical accident and rescue involving copper theft
When the power goes out on a stormy day, it’s easy to attribute that outage to weather. Sometimes an overly-curious squirrel is the culprit of a power outage (they really like transformers). But one of the most troubling outages an Avista crew sees is when criminals steal copper from the electrical system that serves you.
Recently Avista and local Spokane first responders participated in a surprise, mock electrical emergency that involved the theft of copper wire from overhead power lines. Avista facilitated the exercise that resulted in mock injuries to one thief and resulted in a fatality for another.
The video above explains the exercise, why we do it and what benefits it generates for Avista and our first responder-partners.
This mock accident was coordinated by Avista Journeyman Lineman Mike Toutloff. Dozens of other employees assisted in this successful event. Of note were members of the electric line crew: Chris Christopherson, Brian Morse, Paul Gifford, Jarrad Hansen and Ben Gies. The colorful character “getting arrested” in the video is Journeyman Lineman Brady Hansen.
Thanks also to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Dept., Fire District 9, Fire District 18 and EMS personnel.
Avista crews arrived at a scene in North Spokane to find a rescue dummy (thief 1) draped over an overhead power line near a power pole. His accomplice, (thief 2) was attached to the base of the pole. Both men had received electrical shocks as they attempted to steal copper wire.
The crew moved swiftly to ensure the power lines were de-energized, meaning no electricity was running through them. They then removed the copper thieves from the pole and began life-saving efforts with the aid of local first responders who had already secured the surrounding scene.
Avista and first responders work in coordination on this sort of mock scenario to ensure that when they do occur in real life, all agencies respond appropriately.
All agencies involved are reviewing their performance to find any areas of improvement for the future.
Copper theft is a serious and dangerous crime. Since mid-2011 approximately 123 copper theft incidents have occurred in the Spokane area costing Avista and its customers $400,000 in replacement costs. The danger is not only to thieves, but also anyone who comes into contact with a live electrical line. For your safety, if you see a down wire, stay away and call Avista at 1-800-227-9187.
Dec 04 , 2012
Avista a big supporter of veterans and military families
Pride and patriotism were flowing on Friday, Nov. 30 when more than 50 Avista employees gathered to dedicate a new flagpole located near the front entrance of the Clarkston construction office. The Lewis Clark Valley Veterans Council was at the event to perform an official flag-raising ceremony.
Gene Dickenson being presented with folded flag
in honor of his uncle who served in WWII.
Two flag raisings took place. The first flag rose in honor of Line Foreman, Gene Dickenson’s uncle, who served in World War II. Dickenson’s uncle, Dan Marshall, served in the U.S. Army from 1942-1945. Marshall’s flag was raised to the top of the pole and then lowered to half staff while The Star-Spangled Banner was sung by guest, Sandy Riggers of Craigmont, Idaho. Dickenson was later presented with his uncle’s flag – something his family wanted him to have.
The second flag raised was a new permanent flag, that will fly proudly on the new flagpole. Major Kay Kalbfleish, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Retired helped conduct the ceremony.
Clarkston Operations Manager, Glenn Logsdon spoke about the significance of this event saying, “this is one of the proudest moments of my career at Avista. I have always wanted to do something to honor our veterans. Today is a great day to thank and honor those who have served our country.”
Avista Corp. President, Chairman and CEO, Scott Morris also noted how proud he was of his co-workers who have served in the military and marveled at the strength of their families. Currently Avista has approximately 112 self-declared veterans of military service, about 7 percent of our workforce. As the number of veterans returning home from service increases, Avista is actively working with local organizations to identify opportunities to support veterans-to-work initiatives.
Aug 30 , 2012
When you think about how your electricity is generated you probably think it comes mainly from hydropower
. But did you know that Avista also uses natural gas as a fuel to generate electricity? In fact, it makes up 36% of our company owned electric power plants
. Natural gas generation is a dependable source of energy because the fuel can be stored to generate electricity anytime, and it has about half the carbon emissions of other fossil fuels, such as coal.
Avista and Portland General Electric co-own a combined cycle natural gas plant called Coyote Springs, located in Boardman, Oregon. The plant has 2 main generation units, and Avista owns Unit 2.
A combined cycle plant has a gas turbine and a steam unit all in one. These types of units are considered very efficient because they use the waste heat from the gas turbine to create steam, instead of exhausting it back into the atmosphere.
Unlike a simple cycle gas plant, which can be fired up quickly to meet the electricity generation needs of customers, the combined cycle plant at Coyote Springs is considered a “base load” facility because the natural gas generator needs to run consistently in order to provide heat for the steam generator.
Like a car, there are certain maintenance activities that need to take place after a number of years. This year, unit 2 had its first scheduled major maintenance since the unit went in service in 2002.
The project involves overhauling the natural gas and steam generators in unit 2. From start to finish, the project takes approximately six weeks to complete and a great deal of collaboration and teamwork.
The end result of the maintenance is that Unit 2 at Coyote Springs will continue to have the capacity to generate an average of 280 megawatts of power for our customers – that’s enough electricity for just over 210,000 homes.
Jun 21 , 2012
Employees spring to action, save co-worker, make stretcher with sticks and a chainsaw before a helicopter evacuation
When the lights go out, you expect someone from Avista to have your back and get the lights on quick. It’s commonplace to have outages occur in heavy rain or snow and in rough country where long stretches of power lines travel. So who has the crew’s back when they’re out on the job – especially in rural areas?
That was the key question asked in late June when Avista staged a mock ATV accident in the wilderness near Bovill, Idaho. The scenario went like this – two linemen on ATVs were servicing a power line that feeds communications and other equipment on a remote butte that can’t be reached by traditional vehicles. One of the ATVs couldn’t navigate a turn and rolled down a heavily wooded embankment. One of the men was seriously hurt. He wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse.
What would you do?
Avista Journeyman Lineman Matt Anderson was put on the spot to rescue his fallen co-worker, Journeyman Lineman Marc Gaines. Anderson had about three minutes to prepare for the scenario. After lifting the ATV off the victim, radioing for help and MedStar, performing CPR and getting a pulse, Anderson grabbed his chainsaw and on the fly made a stretcher out of nearby trees, his coat, sweatshirt and some straps from his own ATV.
Once additional co-workers arrived on scene they carried the victim to a Trooper/Snowcat and evacuated him to a landing zone for MedStar where he was met by the helicopter crew and Deary, Idaho EMS. An Avista employee used spray paint, normally used to mark underground lines when you call 811, to mark the landing zone. The large “X” was painted in the gravel in between the words “LAND HERE.”
“We expected the scenario to take about two and a half hours, but Matt and the crew did such an awesome job, it only took about one hour,” said Mark Magers, a Journeyman Lineman/Meterman who organized the event and coordinated with local first responders.
The Avista electric line crew that arrived on scene to help Anderson consisted of Chris Ball, Dan Flanagan, Bryant Maupin and Chad Steinbruecker.
Avista creates these mock scenarios to test our employees, emergency procedures and first responders to make sure that when an accident happens – we’re all ready for action.
This was an intricately planned mock accident and no employees, customers or first responders were in any real danger at any time. The ATV was also drained of all fuel and oil prior to placement.
I was lucky enough to video the incident and I hope you’ll watch the recap above
. It was an amazing emotional scene to watch my co-workers put all their skills into play. There was no hint of “pretend” on anyone’s face. Saving a life, through any means available, was the goal and the employees’ dedication shows clearly on the video.
While the event was a mock scenario, the training of Avista’s crew was on full display. Several observers watched the incident and will present any findings or recommendations.
As one observer said when the MedStar helicopter took off and the scene was cleared, “If I ever get hurt, I sure hope an Avista guy is around to help me.”
That statement says it all. Nice work guys.
May 11 , 2012
Spokane River and Clark Fork River work targets fish survival, habitat and doing the right thing
If you’ve ever dipped a fishing rod into any of our local lakes or rivers you’re already aware of the great natural resources we enjoy in the Northwest. Because Avista operates hydroelectric facilities on the Clark Fork and Spokane rivers, we’ve made a commitment to the environment as part of our daily operations throughout Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.
Two great examples of Avista’s commitment to environmental stewardship are reducing invasive lake trout in Lake Pend Oreille and studying rainbow trout spawning on the Spokane River. These projects were featured in a 2010 “Safekeeping” segment of the Columbia Country television program which aired on Fox stations.
Clark Fork River
The Clark Fork Project segment features an ongoing collaborative project on Lake Pend Oreille to reduce the population of invasive lake trout. Lake Pend Oreille was once a world-class fishery for rainbow trout, bull trout and kokanee. In recent years, the lake has been taken over by lake trout (also called mackinaw), which do not coexist well with native bull trout, and which prey on kokanee, depleting the food sources for rainbow and bull trout. This project offers angler incentives and brings in commercial netters to “fish out” the invasive lake trout. Since this program’s inception more than 139,000 lake trout have been removed from the lake.
Avista helps fund the Lake Pend Oreille project through our Clark Fork Project license, which includes Noxon Rapids Dam in Montana and Cabinet Gorge Dam in northern Idaho.
The Spokane segment features a rainbow trout spawning study on the Spokane River, part of our 50-year operating license for the five hydroelectric developments that make up Avista’s Spokane River Project. The spawning study is part of a 10-year collaboration with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to better understand the relationship between river flow and the rainbow trout population and their spawning habitat from Monroe Street Dam downstream to Nine Mile Dam.
In each of the last two years, in partnership with WDFW, we’ve captured and tagged more than 800 rainbow trout in the river below the Monroe Street Dam downstream to the Nine Mile Reservoir. This part of the 10-year study is to understand how many trout are in the Spokane River and the habitat they use. We will capture and tag rainbow trout again this October.
A similar project has been in effect for several years in the Upper Spokane River, and we hope this project will help us better understand how managing river flows affects water levels in Lake Coeur d’Alene and habitat for rainbow trout downstream. By doing so, we hope to ultimately encourage growth of the rainbow trout population in the Spokane River.
Both of these projects show how Avista works with others to care for the natural resources affected by our projects. They are great examples of how we make our commitment to environment part of our daily operations throughout Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.
Apr 13 , 2012
Four-year, $45 million upgrade nearing completion at Avista’s largest hydroelectric dam
In February Avista’s Noxon Rapids hydroelectric project, which generates clean, renewable energy reached a big milestone when the last of four original turbines to be replaced was installed. The four-unit, $45 million project started in July 2008 and is on schedule to be finished by spring 2012.
The upgraded units are expected to increase the total generating capacity of the dam by an estimated 30 megawatts. The upgrades enhance Avista’s ability to serve our customers because it lets us generate more power using the same amount of water – enough energy, in fact, to power more than 4,800 homes, or a town nearly the same size as Rathdrum, Idaho. Another benefit: this additional energy qualifies under Washington State’s Energy Independence Act (RCW 19.285) to meet Avista’s Washington state-mandated renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements.
Avista continues to generate or purchase about half of our energy with hydroelectric power. Investing in our hydroelectric dams makes good sense – some of them are more than 100 years old – and it’s a continual process.
You can sense a pride of ownership from the crew featured in the above video. Many of these employees, who worked to remove and replace the old turbine, have been working on hydroelectric generation projects for many years. When the Noxon Rapids work is complete, these employees will move onto other projects, but their legacy will live on in the additional energy they helped produce.
Mar 27 , 2012
An inside look at how Avista gathers information about snowpack
Avista owns and operates eight hydroelectric
dams on the Clark Fork and Spokane rivers.
These facilities, together with long term hydro
contracts, make up about half of the total
electric resources available to serve our
Skiers may prefer light and fluffy snow, but heavy and wet snow contributes more to our water supply in the Northwest. Avista counts on water to generate hydropower for our customers. Every year, Avista evaluates snowpack information in the mountains to get an idea of what spring runoff may be like at our dams on the Spokane and Clark Fork rivers. Only a select few get to see this evaluation process up close, so we took a video camera up the mountain to get you a special look at snowpack measurement.
Avista rents snowmobiles so employees can get as close to the snowpack measurement site as possible. Snow depth is measured by pushing an aluminum tube down through the snowpack and all the way down to ground surface. Both the depth and weight of the snow is recorded. An average of all samples taken is calculated and used to represent the snowpack measurement site.
Avista measures 10 sites at Roland Summit in the Lolo National Forest, which is located near the Hiawatha Trail. Once the data is collected, the Hydro Engineering team submits the data to the National Resources Conservation Service who is largely responsible for providing Avista and many other interested parties with reliable water supply forecasts.
The more gradual the snowmelt, the more Avista can maximize that water running through its dams. However, you never know what Mother-Nature is going to do. Regardless, our customers can count on Avista to make the most out of this precious resource in an efficient, reliable and environmentally-responsible way.
If you have questions about lake and river levels, please visit our website
Feb 24 , 2012
Avista crews battle the wind to restore power to North Spokane neighborhood on February 22, 2012. A tree branch came into contact with a power line, damaging the equipment. Crews made a temporary fix and routed power around the damaged insulator, then moved on to the next outage. When winds calm, we'll come back and fix the insulator permanently.
Our crews do this work for you, regardless of weather conditions. A neighboring homeowner even brought out a plate of treats for the crew - very nice of her.
The video is set to the tune of "Dust in the Wind," sad song, but fitting for such a windy, dusty day!
Feb 22 , 2012
North Idaho Christian student Brian Pfau is the 2011 Grand Prize winner for his “One Green World” video. North Idaho Christian School, in Hayden, Idaho, will receive a $2,500 technology grant from Avista.
Students create short videos to show how every little bit adds up for energy savings
Back in December, Avista announced an opportunity for young and aspiring directors and actors to put their creative juices to work and make a short video about energy efficiency through the Every Little Bit Video Contest. After many submissions and tough decisions, several talented and lucky high school students were selected as the third annual Every Little Bit Video winners.
North Idaho Christian student Brian Pfau is the 2011 Grand Prize winner for his “One Green World” video (see video above). North Idaho Christian School, in Hayden, Idaho, will receive a $2,500 technology grant from Avista.
Zane Bickham, Patrick Old and Aneesh Pappu of Pullman High School in Pullman, Wash., are the 2011 Viewer’s Choice Award winners for their film, “Dreaming Of A Cleaner World
.” Their school will receive a $1,500 technology grant from Avista.
Runner-up and honorable mention award winners are from East Valley High School in Spokane Valley, Wash., and Pullman High School. View the top six videos at everylittlebit.com.
Nearly 50 videos were submitted for judging. Students promoted their videos and viewers were able to vote for their favorites online at everylittlebit.com.
A big “congratulations” to all the winners and a tip of the cap to all the submissions. All the videos demonstrated an undeniable truth – everyone wins with energy efficiency.