Apr 13 , 2012
noxon video
 
Four-year, $45 million upgrade nearing completion at Avista’s largest hydroelectric dam

Post by Brandi Smith
 
Noxon Rapids
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.
Published: 4/13/2012  12:14 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 13 , 2012
KF pictures

Washington provides renewable designation after nearly 29 years of clean operations

Post by Dan Kolbet

Click to see enlarged chart
You probably don’t hear a lot about Avista’s Kettle Falls biomass plant. You also don’t see much about it or smell much of it either. You see, Kettle Falls pretty much keeps to itself, steadily cranking out electricity. But recently the plant was given a distinction that many people assumed all along – Kettle Falls and its biomass operation will be recognized as renewable by the state of Washington.

Earlier this month Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed SB5575 into law. The bill qualifies legacy biomass energy projects (built before 1999) as eligible renewable resources for purposes of meeting Washington state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). As a result of the bill’s passage, the energy generated at Kettle Falls will qualify to meet our renewable requirements in Washington beginning in 2016.

This passage of the bill is good news for our communities, particularly those in and around Kettle Falls. It will promote employment and preserve jobs at a time when rural economies are suffering. Avista employees at Kettle Falls are members of and contribute to their local communities, and Kettle Falls provides work to local sawmills, fuel delivery businesses, transportation companies and forest workers.

Kettle Falls and biomass: How’s it work?
Wood waste – called “hog fuel” – is fed into a seven-story furnace/boiler and burned, creating heat. The walls of the furnace/boiler consist of pipes filled with water that are heated by the burning hog fuel. The optimal burning temperature is 2,000 degrees, resulting in a steam temperature of 950 degrees. The heated water generates stream and pressure that drives a turbine, which turns a generator, creating electricity.

So, while you might not hear, see or smell a lot about Kettle Falls, now you know it’s cranking out renewable energy.
Published: 4/13/2012  11:56 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 13 , 2012
Palouse Wind artist rendering
An artist rendering of the Palouse Wind project.
 
Avista owns right to wind power for 30 years

Post by Dan Kolbet 
 
Palouse Wind
This fall when you drive down from Spokane to Pullman for a Cougar football game or if you’re just passing through the Palouse, you‘re likely to see some new scenery – wind turbines. First Wind is constructing a new wind farm called Palouse Wind between Oakesdale and State Route 195. Last year Avista signed a 30-year power purchase agreement for the renewable power generated at the site. 

The wind farm is expected be the largest renewable energy facility in Whitman County with the capacity to generate enough clean, renewable energy to power about 30,000 homes.

An official groundbreaking is planned this spring, but work for permitting and some construction work is already underway. One of Avista’s projects in preparation for the new wind energy is construction of a switching station needed to move the new electricity generated at the wind farm onto our transmission system.

The turbines and their massive blades will be shipped from Colorado to Washington by train and eventually be transferred to trucks to get to the site. It should be a site to see.

We’ll update the blog with new video, photos and information on the project as it progresses.
 
Published: 4/13/2012  11:33 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 12 , 2012
 
 
Osprey couple
Thanks to a partnership between Avista, The City of Sandpoint, Keokee Publishing and Northland Communications, a pair of osprey in Sandpoint have a new home – and even better, the community can watch while the pair finishes their nest and settles in – that is, if they decide to stay.

The new webcam at Sandpoint’s Memorial Field came online last week, and has picked up quite a bit of activity in the past several days, including several drop-ins by single osprey, and a pair who just yesterday visited the nest several times, going so far as bringing at least one stick back to the nest.

The cam was installed as a collaborative project between the City of Sandpoint and Keokee Publishing, in partnership with Avista and Northland Communications.

North Idaho is home to one the country's largest nesting population of ospreys, mostly due to the bounty of fish they are able to retrieve from our local bodies of water. Since fish count for 99 percent of their diet, it should come as no big surprise that they choose their homes near the beautiful lakes and rivers in our region. In fact, they usually pick a nesting location within three miles of a body of water and return to it year after year. These attractive raptors not only have great taste in housing locations, but they have a romantic side as well, as most of them mate for life. Many times the housing locations are on our electrical facilities.
 
Last year, the City of Sandpoint, as part of a series of upgrades at the city’s Memorial Field, replaced the field’s old, decrepit lights with new ones. Two of the old light poles had osprey nests built right atop the lights themselves. When those were removed, the city, with Avista’s help, built new nesting platforms in the park. The idea of the web cam was born shortly thereafter, with a goal of educating the public about the raptors.

Avista has ongoing programs in raptor protection, which include public education and outreach, retrofitting our poles to support nesting raptors and adopting management practices that protect birds and other wildlife. This project fits perfectly with that commitment.

The new web is streamed onto a special section of Sandpoint Online.

Take a peek now at www.sandpointonline.com/ospreys.
Published: 4/12/2012  6:56 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 06 , 2012
River runoff
 
Post by Dan Kolbet 
Video by Brandi Smith
The spill gates at our Post Falls Dam are roaring today as seen in this quickie video posted to our Facebook page. Best advice: Stay out of the river in high water. Safety first people!

There was a river rescue earlier today near Gonzaga. According to a Spokesman-Review story posted today, "[Spokane] officials warn that no one, especially children, should go in the river. People also are advised to stay away from flooded bike and walking paths along the river."
 
Published: 4/6/2012  11:36 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 04 , 2012
-Helmet contest in honor of visit by the 811 Damage Prevention Bike created by Paul Jr. Designs
 

The new 811 Damage Prevention Bike created by Paul Jr. Designs for One Call Concepts, Inc. will be at the May 18 Spokane Shock game and will be in the Spokane Lilac Festival Torchlight Parade and car show on May 19.

In honor of the occasion, Avista is offering a chance for one lucky person to win and design his or her own custom painted motorcycle helmet with the help of Spokane artist Greg Roybal. Entry is easy, just “like” us on Facebook. Sorry, but employees and their family members are not eligible to win. It’s that easy.

Avista is partnering with the Inland Empire Utility Coordinating Council (IEUCC) to bring the bike to Spokane at no cost. Bringing the 811 Prevention Bike to Spokane for high-profile community events is one way that we can share with customers and the public about the importance of calling before beginning any project that involves digging.
 
Safety and reliability are top priorities for customers and that’s important when it comes to natural gas. Last year there were 552 customer or contractor dig-ins to Avista’s underground natural gas lines. That’s 7.9 dig-ins for every 1,000 locates which is higher than the national average of 3.7. Avista’s goal is to reduce the number of dig-ins in 2012 by 10 percent to increase public safety and reduce costs.
 
Published: 4/4/2012  3:54 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 03 , 2012
Contractor dig-in causes gas outage impacting 105 homes or businesses; quick response gets customers relit in a hurry
 

Inspecting natural gas pipeline break.
An employee inspects the scene of a natural gas line
dig in at Dalton Gardens, Idaho last week. 105
homes or businesses were without gas overnight
during the repair and relight process.
When it comes to the 24/7-natural gas and electric service we all depend on, Avista’s top priority is to provide it safely and reliably. It is a commitment we all take seriously, and work hard to ensure every day.

An example of this occurred Monday, March 26 at a construction site in Dalton Gardens, Idaho. A contractor struck a four-inch steel natural gas line. The line break was blowing natural gas into the area. A four-inch line doesn’t seem big; however, that size natural gas pipeline can send natural gas to numerous commercial and residential buildings. For comparison, the internal diameter of a typical residential natural gas line is roughly three-quarters of an inch.

We received the emergency call around 4 p.m., just as our natural gas crews were getting ready to go home from their workday. A crew responded immediately to secure the area from potential danger and repair the natural gas line.

After working for nearly 24 hours between their normal workday and the emergency response, the three-man crew finished the repair.  Another crew arrived early in the morning to go door-to-door to all 105 businesses and residences to ensure their natural gas service was back on and to relight their natural gas appliances. 

Though larger natural gas line incidents rarely occur, you can count on us 24/7 when they do. That’s standing by our commitment to provide safe and reliable service to your homes and businesses.

What you should do if there is a gas leak outdoors
Below are some instructions on what to do if a natural gas line is ever struck or you believe there is a leak nearby.
When outdoors, look for these signs:
• Rotten egg odor in the air. We add an odorant that smells like rotten eggs so you’ll know right away if there is a problem.
• Blowing or hissing sound
• Dust blowing from a hole in the ground
• Continuous bubbling in wet or flooded areas
• Dead or discolored vegetation in an otherwise green area

In the event of a natural gas leak, your safety and of those around you are priority one. Any time you smell or hear a gas leak, take these precautions:

• Evacuate the immediate area. Leave immediately on foot in the direction away from where the gas is leaking. Warn others to keep away from the affected area.
• Call Avista Utilities at 1-800-227-9187, and stay on the phone with us until we have all the information we need to send help. Never assume someone else has already reported the leak.

Because natural gas is lighter than air, it becomes combustible when mixed with air and exposed to an ignition source. Don’t smoke, light matches, turn your electrical switches on or off, use the telephone or do anything else that might create a spark.

To report a life-threatening emergency, always call 911.

April is National Call Before You Dig Month
811
Spring is officially here; and with the warming of the season comes outdoor projects. Before you start digging any time of year, remember to make one easy phone call to 811 or a click of the mouse to http://www.call811.com to get your underground utility lines marked.
 
It’s easy and free. Just call 811 or request at http://www.call811.com at least two business days before you dig, and a professional locator will come to your proposed dig site to mark the approximate location of the lines. Once you know where they are, it’s safe to start digging.

Know what's below. Always call before you dig. You can find more information about the Call Before You Dig program at http://www.call811.com or at http://www.avistautilities.com (keyword search: call before you dig).
 
 
Published: 4/3/2012  9:54 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 02 , 2012
We need to invest about $250 million each year over the next five years to continue updating and maintaining our system to serve our customers’ energy needs
 

Noxon Rapids Unit 4 turbine
The new Noxon Rapids Dam Unit 4 turbine is
lowered into place earlier this year. This 4-year,
$45-million project is coming to a close in 2012.
Pole replacement
An employee works to replace old wooden poles
(left) with a new steel structure (right). Steel
structures are more expensive, but typically last
longer than wooden ones.
New power lines
A line crew runs a new, higher-gauge power lines
over a two block distance in downtown Spokane.
Work like this ensures a more reliable system
that’s ready when you need it.
Working safely
An employee wears protective gear while using a
grinder at a natural gas job site in Spokane
Valley. We do our best to work safely on the
system that delivers you energy. 
Today Avista filed requests with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission to increase overall net electric rates by 5.9 percent, and natural gas rates by 6.8 percent in Washington only. The UTC has up to 11 months to review the filings and issue a decision.
 
What does this mean to you? If you’re an Avista electric customer in Washington with average use and the Commission approves the requests, you would see an increase of $4.94 per month or about 16 cents a day, for a revised bill of $83.91. If you’re a natural gas customer in Washington with average use, you would see an increase of $4.23, or about 14 cents a day, for a revised monthly bill of $65.78.

So why is Avista asking for more rate increases? The simple answer is that it costs more each year to provide safe, reliable energy to you. Meeting our customers’ energy needs reliably and responsibly, while still complying with state and federal requirements, is our first obligation, even when it costs more.

About 40 percent of your electric bill and 35 percent of your natural gas bill covers the cost of delivery – the equipment and people needed to provide safe, reliable energy service to you. Maintaining and updating our generation plants (some that are more than 100 years old) and substations, along with more than 18,000 miles of power lines, a quarter of a million poles, and nearly 8,000 miles of gas pipeline, is a big job that doesn’t stop, and one that costs more each year. When we replace or update old equipment with new equipment and technology, it costs many times more than when it was installed. It’s much like when you update your older home or vehicle. Imagine replacing flooring, cabinets and appliances in a kitchen built 40 years ago, and how much more those items cost today than they did in the 1970s.

This was the primary reason for the proposed increase in our last request and we expect it to continue to cause a need for increased rates in the future. We’ll need to invest about $250 million each year over the next five years to continue updating and maintaining our system to serve our customers’ energy needs. And, while our customers still pay some of the lowest prices in the northwest, we’re not the only utility facing rising costs and an aging system.

Keeping rates increases as low as possible
Even so, we work hard to manage our own costs and keep rate increases as low as possible. In the filings, Avista proposed a proposed one-year Energy Recovery Mechanism bill decrease, which is a rebate to customers based on power supply costs, to help offset the increase. About 60 percent of a customer’s electric bill and 65 percent of a natural gas bill is the cost of generating or purchasing electricity and purchasing natural gas to meet customer needs. Power supply costs were lower in 2011, due to factors such as declining natural gas prices and favorable hydroelectric conditions.

We also proposed through this request to help ease the burden of the increase on low-income customers with increased funding for Avista’s energy assistance programs.

Don’t forget, Avista offers services for customers such as comfort level billing, payment arrangements and Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation Services (CARES), which provides assistance to special-needs customers through referrals to area agencies and churches for help with housing, utilities, medical assistance and other needs. To learn more, visit www.avistautilities.com.

Executive salaries in Wash. rates aren’t going up
So what about executive salaries, and how much do the salaries and incentives of our executive officers affect your rates? Not as much as you might think. Avista has proposed that the amount of executive officer salaries and incentives included in rates remain at their 2011 levels.

Approximately 25% of total officer salary and incentives is included in Washington retail rates, which makes up less than ½ a penny of every dollar you pay in rates. This adds up to about 40 cents of your monthly bill if you’re an electric customer with average use, and less than 75 cents if you get both electric and natural gas service. The bottom line is executive salaries aren’t driving energy costs up, rather it’s the rising costs of doing business and taking care of our system.

We realize in these difficult economic times it can be a struggle for people to pay their energy bills. We’ll keep working to reduce costs and improve efficiency while continuing to provide reliable, responsible energy at some of the lowest prices in the Northwest.
 
Published: 4/2/2012  12:57 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 02 , 2012
April is National Call Before You Dig month

Those boots are made for digging . . .
"Those boots are made for digging and that’s
just what they’ll do, but one of these days if you
don’t call 811" . . . OK, so song lyrics don’t really
fit here. Call 811 two days before digging to
locate underground utility lines. 
It’s April and that can mean oone thing. Yep, it’s National Call Before You Dig month.

To mark the month, the governors of Washington, Idaho and Oregon have again issued proclamations for their respective states recognizing April as Safe Digging Month and encouraging citizens to call the 811 one-call service two days in advance for free locates of underground utilities lines.

Not calling before starting those spring projects that involve digging could mean injury, damages to utilities and service disruptions, and potential fines and repair costs. A number of communications are planned this month to help make sure customers and contractors know the importance of calling 811 or going online at www.callbeforeyoudig.org to request a locate of underground lines.

Safety and reliability are top priorities for customers and that’s important when it comes to natural gas. Last year there were 552 customer or contractor dig-ins to Avista’s underground natural gas lines. That’s 7.9 dig-ins for every 1,000 locates which is higher than the national average of 3.7. Avista’s goal is to reduce the number of dig-ins in 2012 by 10 percent to increase public safety and reduce costs.
Published: 4/2/2012  9:12 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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