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Feb 02 , 2012
Attention and care for customer's bungalow and garden were integral to Smart Circuits project
 
 
Customer home and garden
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.

Have you had a similar experience with Avista?
Let us know.
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.

Have you had a similar experience?
Let us help share the story. Email us to share your story.
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.
 
Published: 2/2/2012  11:01 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 18 , 2012
H95
 
Video by Dan Kolbet
 
If you’ve traveled along Highway 95 in North Idaho by Silverwood recently, you may have seen Avista natural gas crews working alongside 6 miles of the busy highway. The Idaho Department of Transportation is reconstructing a portion of Highway 95 from approximately Chilco to Athol. 

Avista has to move its existing pipeline and is expanding the capacity of the pipeline from 3 to 6 inches. Expanded capacity helps serve existing customer needs and helps prepare infrastructure for the future. The estimated cost for this project is around $1.4 million. Part of Avista's requests for customer rate adjustments typically includes infrastructure work like this project.
 
Check out the video which was shot in early January 2012. Learn more about the project and view pictures here.

 
Published: 1/18/2012  8:19 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 06 , 2012
Natural gas slideshow

Crews brave the cold to bring reliable service to you in $1.4 million project

Post by Dan Kolbet
 
If you’ve traveled along Highway 95 in North Idaho by Silverwood recently, you may have seen Avista natural gas crews working alongside the busy highway. We wanted to let you know what they are up to. Our crews are relocating and increasing capacity for six miles of natural gas pipeline to accommodate a newly constructed highway.

The Idaho Department of Transportation is reconstructing a portion of Highway 95 from approximately Chilco to Athol.  The highway will expand from two to four lanes, which is great for safety and traffic, but means Avista’s existing 3-inch natural gas pipeline needs to move to a new right-of-way on the east side of the road.

Avista is expanding the capacity of the pipeline from 3 to 6 inches too. Expanded capacity helps serve existing customer needs and helps prepare our infrastructure for the future. The estimated cost for this project is around $1.4 million. Part of our requests for customer rate adjustments typically includes infrastructure work like this project.

You can see from the slideshow of pictures that the crews are clearing a pathway, laying down 40-foot lengths of yellow plastic pipe, fusing them together and then burying the pipeline with sandy soil. The sandy soil protects the pipeline from being touched rocks or hard objects that could put pressure on the new pipeline. After the line is in place it will be pressure tested before being brought into service.

The project started in mid-December and should be completed by mid-March. One of the biggest hurdles the crews had to overcome recently was frost. At times crews had to dig through 12 to 24 inches of frozen ground to make a trench that goes much deeper. Typically large projects like this aren’t completed during winter months, but Avista and other utilities agreed to do the work now to accommodate the Idaho Department of Transportation’s aggressive schedule. Luckily snow hasn’t been an issue yet, but if it does, our crews will work through that too.

Checkout other Avista Blog post about Natural Gas.
Published: 1/6/2012  11:31 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 09 , 2011
Your rates dollars at work: pipeline reinforces service to Clarkston area

Post by Dan Kolbet

Clarkston pipeline work.
Since mid-July Avista contract crews have been working on a 2.8-mile natural gas line extension in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley that will help reinforce gas service to Avista customers in the Clarkston area.

The new six-inch steel high pressure natural gas line was installed on the Clarkston, Wash., side of the Snake River and is fed through an existing line from Lewiston, Idaho. In early December the line underwent a successful pressure test and is now in service, providing homes and businesses with winter heat.

There a still a few asphalt patches that will be spruced up along the project corridor, but that should be wrapped up shortly.

Employees and contractors reported that customers in the area have been wonderful to work with and talk to about the project.

An unexpected benefit of the project to customers and the public came in the form of safety lighting on the Greenbelt Trail, a popular recreation area, where the new line was installed. In order to install the new pipeline, Avista needed to access land managed by the Army Corp of Engineers. As in-kind consideration in lieu of fees for conducting this project, Avista will install 46 lights along the trail from Chestnut Beach to Swallows Boat Ramp parking lot, at an approximate cost of $71,500. The new lights, to be installed later this year, will improve the safety of visitors who use the Greenbelt Trail.

Roughly 4,000 feet of conduit has already been installed for the lighting project that is expected to be complete around March 2012, but is dependent on winter.

This new natural gas pipeline is a great example of where your rates dollars go – providing you safe, reliable gas service.
Published: 12/9/2011  12:13 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 27 , 2011
Noxon pics
 
Post by Brandi Smith
 
What weighs 120 tons and has been generating clean and reliable hydropower for 52 years? A turbine runner at Noxon Rapids Dam that has been in service since the dam’s opening in 1959.

On October 19, the project reached a milestone. The last turbine to be upgraded at Noxon Rapids Dam was removed from service. The removal of the turbine is part of a $45 million project to upgrade four original generating units with newer, more efficient technology. The 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, rather than securing it somewhere else. The new turbines also boast features such as smooth edges and corners and a stainless steel body that weighs just 65 tons. The incremental energy they produce is already helping Avista meet its Washington State renewable portfolio standards as well.

Removing an old turbine isn’t easy business. They are cast steel beasts weighing approximately 120 tons. The prep work alone takes hundreds of hours of skilled labor and craftsmanship to get the turbine ready for retirement. Once the big day comes, a large crane is used to lift it out of the penstock. It’s a slow and careful process that takes a full day to complete, which makes Noxon Rapids’ stellar safety record of 20 years and counting for zero lost-time accidents even more impressive.

The final new replacement turbine is expected to be in service by spring 2012. As for the old turbine, we hope to move it to the dam’s public viewing area as an added attraction to an already beautiful and scenic park.
Published: 10/27/2011  3:47 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 13 , 2011
New line will reinforce gas service to Clarkston area customers; Safety lighting along trail a welcome public benefit

Post by Dan Kolbet

Pipe install
Welding pipe
Natural gas pipeline installation includes welding
sections of steel pipe together. The new line will
help reinforcegas service to Avista customers in
the Clarkston area.
Since mid-July Avista contract crews have been working on a 2.8-mile natural gas line extension in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley that will help reinforce gas service to Avista customers in the Clarkston area.

The new six-inch steel high pressure natural gas line is being installed on the Clarkston, Wash., side of the Snake River and will be fed through an existing line from Lewiston, Idaho. The project comes with several unique challenges, such as shoreline work, trenching along a popular nature trail, and accessing land managed by the Army Corp. of Engineers and Department of Transportation. Crews have also hit unexpected sections of buried rock, which slowed trenching work.

Recently Avista also had to monitor a portion of the project located underneath the Southway Bridge for cultural artifacts. An archaeologist was onsite during construction to observe the pipeline installation, but found no cultural artifacts.

Associate Gas Engineer David Smith, who is managing the project, said that 4,100 feet of pipe has been installed so far. That’s about 28 percent of the total expected length of the project.

Avista customers and area residents have expressed positive feelings about the project according the Regional Business Manager Mike Tatko who has spoken about the project at several community events.

An additional benefit of the project to customers and the public came in the form of safety lighting on the Greenbelt Trail, a popular recreation area, where the new line is being installed. In order to install the new pipeline, Avista needed to access land managed by the Army Corp of Engineers. As in-kind consideration in lieu of fees for conducting this project, Avista will install 46 lights along the trail from Chestnut Beach to Swallows Boat Ramp parking lot, at an approximate cost of $71,500. The new lights, to be installed later this year, will improve the safety of visitors who use the Greenbelt Trail.

"We are pleased to partner with the Corps to install safety lighting along the Greenbelt Trail as a part of our natural gas pipeline project," Tatko said. “Keeping funds for this project local in the form of new trail lighting is a very visible benefit to Avista customers and all area residents who use the trail."

Installation of the pipeline is expected to be complete in November.

After the line is complete, it will be pressure tested at 1.5 times its normal pressure before natural gas is allowed to flow. It’s a check to ensure the line has no leaks and is safe for use.
 
Published: 9/13/2011  8:56 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 11 , 2011
Post by Brandi Smith
 
Click to enlarge map
Whether you’re in downtown Spokane spending the afternoon at Riverfront Park or just happen to walk through the area on your lunch hour, you will see a number of projects taking place in and around the river between Upper Falls and Monroe Street Dams this summer and fall. The work will enhance fish, wildlife, water quality, recreation and aesthetic resources in our community and meet requirements of Avista’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license to operate our dams on the Spokane River.

As flows drop to summer levels, the following projects will take place in and around the river. If you are in the area, you may see temporary work structures, cranes, trucks and contractors. All equipment will be handled and operated with an emphasis on public safety and protecting the environment. For your own safety, please stay out of the riverbed and keep clear of designated work areas.

Here’s what’s on the construction schedule:

Viewing Platform Construction – Upper Falls
Construction of a new viewing platform near Avista’s Upper Falls Dam in Riverfront Park will take place this summer and fall. Avista is building the platform to access the Upper Falls Dam for maintenance. Once the work is complete, park visitors will have a permanent spot to enjoy the views of the river. This project will also improve pedestrian access and the aesthetics at Riverfront Park.

Testing flows last year
Aesthetic Flows Project – north channel, Upper Falls
The goal of Avista’s aesthetic spills project is to spread water more evenly throughout the two channels of the Spokane River that run north and south of Canada Island and produce an aesthetically pleasing flow of water that viewers can enjoy throughout the year. To do this, we’ll modify the river’s channel in order to return it to a more natural state, the way it was before early developers in Spokane cut into the bedrock to collect water during dry times. This project Last year, Avista brought together several stakeholder groups, including the Washington Department of Ecology, The Sierra Club, and others, to take part in a pilot test for this project. Immediately before and during construction, Avista will not release flows into the channels to the north and south of Canada Island.

Monroe Street Dam rock removal
Generating clean, efficient power is a top priority at Avista. The high river flows this spring have caused large amounts of rocks, gravel and other materials to accumulate at the Monroe Street Dam. The excess debris can damage the intake structure and interfere with power production.

In September, the accumulated rocks and gravel will be removed from the forebay. Depending on the analysis of sampled material, the materials will then be placed back into the river below the dam. Usually this activity is done every two years, however, because of heavy water flows this year, Avista will be performing the work again this fall.
 
Fishery work
While fishery work may not be as visible as other activities, biologists will be doing work throughout the summer and fall in the Upper Falls and Nine Mile Reservoirs. The majority of the work this fall will involve a study to determine the population of fish in this area of the Spokane River.

In 2011, Avista will plant 6,000 catchable, sterile rainbow trout in Upper Falls Reservoir and 9,000 fish in Nine Mile Reservoir. This stocking program is intended to provide families in our community the opportunity to fish.

Stay tuned for more information about these exciting projects throughout the summer and fall. Avista has also posted signs near the project areas to educate those who pass by about what we’re doing.
Published: 8/11/2011  4:35 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jun 30 , 2011
 
Today, Avista announced an agreement to purchase power generated by the proposed Palouse Wind project in Whitman County, Wash., beginning in the second half of 2012. What does this mean for you as an Avista customer? Well, it’s really about Avista’s responsibility to balance the costs of new resources with securing enough energy to meet your energy needs, while at the same time satisfying renewable portfolio standards, both in the near and long term.

Avista must comply with renewable portfolio standards (RPS) detailed in Washington’s Energy Independence Act, which was approved by Washington State voters with the passage of Initiative 937 in 2006. The Act requires us to use eligible renewable resources, renewable energy credits, or a combination of both, to meet the following targets: 3% of energy used to meet customer demand by January 1, 2012, 9% by January 1, 2016 and 15% by January 1, 2020.

We’re already meeting the 2012 targets, mostly with upgrades we’ve made at our hydroelectric dams. Those upgrades allow us to generate more energy using the same amount of water, with the additional energy qualifying in Washington as an eligible renewable resource.

The next big deadline will be 2016, and, while it’s still a few years away, we’ve been thinking about it for some time. Over the past few years, we’ve been following the market and looking for potential opportunities to incorporate cost-effective, renewable power. Recent market changes, including lower costs of developing wind power facilities and tax incentives, have made this an excellent time to do that, so in February we put out a request for proposals. Through a competitive bid process, Palouse Wind, which has the added benefit of being located in Avista’s service territory, was selected.

Avista expects to recover the cost of the power purchased from Palouse Wind through retail rates as we would have to recover the cost of any power used to meet demand, but not before that power is generated and delivered to customers. Remember, we’re a regulated utility, which means we can’t recover costs we haven’t incurred, and we must justify any rate increase.

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 of Avista’s customers’ homes. Developers say its location between the town of Oakesdale and State Route 195 is ideal for capturing the prevailing southwest wind.

Along with the other things Avista’s doing, like upgrading our dams, the renewable power purchased from Palouse Wind is expected to help us meet Washington State RPS goals for 2016, and will also provide a new energy resource for our customers. We think it’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it.
Published: 6/30/2011  2:33 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jun 22 , 2011
2nd slideshow
 
Post & Photos by Dan Kolbet

photo
photo
This morning I stopped by an Avista job site just east of Division in downtown Spokane. Our crews were replacing a section of power line between First and Second avenues at Cowley Street. In order to keep the neighboring homes and businesses with power while the replacement project occurred, they were safely working around live (or hot) power lines.

Our crews attached extenders on the top of the utility poles and moved the live/hot lines to the outer edges. Then they use rope to pull new, higher gauge power lines where the old lines used to sit. At either end of the work are massive spools that release the new wire or collect the rope. They will repeat this process until the entire length of the power line, usually many miles, is replaced.

We often use the term “upgrades,” when we talk about this type of project. Since we’re replacing an old line with a new one, a simple replacement really is an “upgrade” too. If you’re going to replace something, you might as well plan for future needs so you don’t have to come back and upgrade the line again in just a few years.

This small example shows how Avista is ensuring our electric grid has the capacity to meet your needs, when you need it. This is your rate dollars at work.

Check out the slideshow above for more 14 images of Avista crews working for you.
 
Published: 6/22/2011  3:16 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 27 , 2011

Noxon Rapids Dam

 
Post by Brandi Smith

One safe group!
The group was officially recognized for their milestone
at one of their routine monthly safety meetings.
Pride in their work and respect for one another is the perfect description of the crew of 13 employees at Noxon Rapids Dam who have gone 7,300 days without a lost-time accident. That’s 20 years and counting--an impressive feat considering the amount of work that has been taking place over the last few years to upgrade the 51-year-old structure as well as the amount of contract employees who rotate through the facility. So far, they have completed three out of four unit upgrades without a recordable accident or injury.

Noxon Unit 3 removal
“Safety at Noxon is a mind-set and a group effort above all else,” said Chief Operator Pat Kelly who will be retiring after 30 years of service with Avista this June. He attributes their successful safety record to the good old adage that anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time. The close knit group talks about safety on a daily basis, evaluating hazards and discussing near misses.

“This record is secondary to the people who work here and go home safe and sound at the end of the day,” said Kelly. “We watch out for one another and pay close attention to safety procedures. If we identify a source or area for potential injury, we talk about it and make it safe.”

In addition to generating an excellent safety culture, Noxon Rapids Dam is widely known throughout Avista as our workhorse with a generating capacity of 562.4 Megawatts.
Published: 5/27/2011  3:56 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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