Aug 17 , 2012
Blades going up.
 
Photos by Sarah Richards

Yesterday several massive blades were installed on turbines at the Palouse Wind farm on Washington State Route 195 near Oakesdale, Wash. Get more details and photos of the project. 
 
 
Published: 8/17/2012  11:16 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 03 , 2012
KXLY wind
 
Rosalia, Whitman County already benefiting economically
 
Post by Dan Kolbet
 
KXLY did a pretty cool story last night on the economic impacts of the Palouse Wind project going up south of Rosalia. First Wind is building the project, but Avista has a 30-year power purchase agreement on the electrical output.

Watch the story above by reporter and weekend anchor Colleen O'Brien. Read the whole story on KXLY’s website here.  There's a short (15-second) commercial before the story starts, but hey, this is about economic impact, right? So its OK.
 
Wind construction
A crane lifting a roughly 250,000-pound nacelle and
hub unit to be placed on top of the tower.
My co-workers Sarah Richards and Anna Scarlett visited the wind farm site last week and took some awesome photos of the construction site. Check out those photos here.
 
“We were very fortunate to capture this renewable energy project in Whitman County, along with the increasing level of economic activity it brings,” said Dick Watters, Whitman County director for the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association (SEWEDA). “It was always our first priority. We worked very close with Palouse Wind to ensure our region’s workforce, goods and service providers, and contractors had opportunities to participate along the way.”

According to First Wind, more than 150 jobs are being created during construction, which they anticipate will result in millions of dollars invested in the Inland Northwest.

First Wind estimates that over the life of the project, $700,000 will be generated in tax revenues per year. Additionally, sales tax collected on all goods and services purchased within Whitman County related to the project will contribute to the county general fund.

At Avista, renewable energy has been at the heart of our business since 1889. With the ever-increasing demand for energy, Avista’s purchase agreement with Palouse Wind will help us serve our customers with the renewable energy you expect and depend on.
 
Published: 8/3/2012  9:36 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 01 , 2012
Partnership formed to manage approximately 2,000 acres of Avista and DNR property around Nine Mile Dam and Lake Spokane
 
 
Nine Mile Resort
State Parks will now manage Avista’s Nine Mile
Recreation Area as part of its Riverside State Park
operations. We expect this to improve your recreation
experiences at this and our other facilities.
 
Lake Spokane
DNR’s Lake Spokane Campground, which includes
campsites, a boat launch, picnic and swimming areas,
will be open longer to extend the recreation season,
from April 15 through Oct. 15. In the future, the
campground will be also expanded as part of the
agreement.
Avista owns and operates five federally-licensed hydroelectric facilities on the Spokane River – Post Falls, Upper Falls, Monroe Street, Nine Mile and Long Lake. Besides generating clean, reliable hydropower, these dams provide an abundance of recreation opportunities. As part of our 50-year federal license to operate our Spokane River hydroelectric facilities, we’re committed to working with agencies in Washington and Idaho to expand, enhance and preserve recreation opportunities related to our dams.

As part of this commitment, we’ve developed multi-year plans for recreation on and around Lake Spokane, the Spokane River, and Coeur d’Alene Lake, which include the following:
• Improving existing campgrounds, boat facilities, trails, and scenic overlooks
• Developing new recreation facilities and interpretive displays
• Increasing access for individuals with disabilities
• Partnering with others to operate and maintain recreation facilities in a cost-effective and responsible manner

We’ve already started working towards these goals. Today Avista and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced a partnership to manage approximately 2,000 acres of Avista and DNR property around Nine Mile Dam and Lake Spokane (also known as Long Lake). Read the news release. 
 
State Parks will now manage Avista’s Nine Mile Falls and Lake Spokane Recreation areas and DNR’s Lake Spokane Campground as part of its Riverside State Park operations. This includes Nine Mile Recreation Area and our Long Lake Dam day-use area, as well as south shore trailheads during non-hunting seasons. State Parks will also manage Avista’s scenic overlooks at Long Lake and Nine Mile dams, and some of the new recreation facilities we plan to develop in 2013. These include a boat take-out above Nine Mile Dam, a boat put-in below Long Lake Dam, and 10 boat-in-only campsites on Lake Spokane.

Avista is also assisting State Parks in the management of DNR’s Lake Spokane Campground, which includes campsites, a boat launch, picnic and swimming areas. The campground and boat launch will be open longer to extend the recreation season, from April 15 through Oct. 15. In the future, the campground will be also expanded as part of the agreement.

We expect this partnership to increase and improve recreation, particularly around Lake Spokane, with services that include better security, maintenance, and ongoing upkeep. However, people recreating at these sites will now need a Discover Pass for day use, and may have to pay other state camping and boat launch fees as required. The Discover Pass fees help offset the high cost of maintaining recreation facilities for public use, and eliminate future potential fees that Avista may otherwise have to charge users of these facilities.

The good news is, for those of you who already have a Discover Pass, you’re getting a lot more for your investment in the local area. If you haven’t purchased a pass yet, doing so will help to ensure you have the best experience possible, whether you’re hiking, boating, camping, fishing, or just out for a day of picnicking and swimming. State Parks offers passes that reduce or waive camping and launch fees for limited-income senior citizens, disabled veterans, foster parents and people with disabilities. For more information, visit www.discoverpass.wa.gov.
Published: 8/1/2012  4:20 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 01 , 2012
slideshow
 

Inside a wind turbine
A rare look inside a wind turbine.
If you’ve had the opportunity to drive on State Route 195 near Oakesdale, Wash., within the past few weeks, you may have noticed large white towers popping up like daisies.

A little unfamiliar looking without their blades, the 250-foot structures are just the first of 58 Vestas V100-1.8 megawatt (MW) wind turbines, which will dot the Naff Ridge at First Wind’s Palouse Wind project.

Last year, Avista signed an agreement to purchase the renewable wind power generated by the proposed Palouse Wind project in Whitman County, Wash., once it comes online. In early May of this year, First Wind broke ground on Palouse Wind. First Wind expects the project to be complete and generating power by the end of the year. Parts of the wind turbines have arrived and are being assembled and erected now.

Don’t let your view from the road deceive you, the sheer size and weight of the various wind turbine parts dictate a carefully planned delivery system of barge, rail and night-time truck hauls to avoid any traffic concerns. For example, the nacelle, which is the part that sits on top of the tower and houses all of the generating components of a wind turbine, weighs 97.5 tons. The blades, more than 160 feet in length, are scheduled to start arriving on site this month.

Tilling the ground for renewable energy and economic development
Avista is rooted in renewable energy. According to the latest report of the National Resources Defense Council, "Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Power Producers in the United States," Avista is the 11th lowest emitter of CO2 in pounds per megawatt-hour of major electric generators in the United States and the third lowest among investor-owned utilities. With 50 percent of our net generation capability from hydroelectric and a majority of our thermal generation fueled with natural gas, plus a commitment to energy efficiency, we are one of the greenest utilities in the nation. As the demands for energy increase, it’s important to look for sustainable ways to meet those demands.

“We’ve been looking at wind power for a long time at Avista,” said Bob Lafferty, Avista’s director of power supply. “The renewable energy from Palouse Wind will be an important piece of our diverse portfolio that can help us meet our customers’ energy needs and renewable portfolio standards in Washington.”

Palouse Wind will be the largest renewable energy facility in Whitman County with the capacity to generate 105 MW of energy – enough clean, renewable energy to power about 30,000 of our customers’ homes.

In addition to meeting an energy need, the location of the Palouse Wind project brings economic growth to the region as well.

“We were very fortunate to capture this renewable energy project in Whitman County, along with the increasing level of economic activity it brings,” said Dick Watters, Whitman County director for the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association (SEWEDA). “It was always our first priority. We worked very close with Palouse Wind to ensure our region’s workforce, goods and service providers, and contractors had opportunities to participate along the way.”

According to First Wind, more than 150 jobs are being created during construction, which they anticipate will result in millions of dollars invested in the Inland Northwest.

First Wind estimates that over the life of the project, $700,000 will be generated in tax revenues per year. Additionally, sales tax collected on all goods and services purchased within Whitman County related to the project will contribute to the county general fund.

“Economic development is the process of building strong, adaptive and diverse economies,” Avista’s Regional Business Manager Paul Kimmell added. “Local assets and realities, a diverse industry base, and a commitment to equality of opportunity and sustainable practices must drive these strategies. This project has emerged as one that will ensure a strong foundation for long-term stability and economic growth for Whitman County.”

At Avista, renewable energy has been at the heart of our business since 1889. With the ever-increasing demand for energy, Avista’s purchase agreement with Palouse Wind will help us serve our customers with the renewable energy you expect and depend on.
Published: 8/1/2012  10:13 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 30 , 2012
Avista's Deer Park Settler's Days truck
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

For this year’s Settler’s Days Parade in Deer Park, Wash., Avista dressed up one of our electric line trucks with a patriotic theme to cruise the route. Our employees volunteer their time to participate in community events like this to share information about energy efficiency and safety. We love the communities we serve. Thanks for having us, Deer Park!

In the picture above you can see Deer Park Operations Manager Frank Binder; Journeyman Lineman Pat St. Amand, his wife Coleen and their two daughters Bridget and Margaret; Community Investment and Foundation Manager Kristi Meyer; and of course, Edison and our Energy Watchdog, Wattson.

View more photos on the Avista Utilities Facebook page.

Learn more about the work we’ve done in Deer Park
Avista Blog Nov. 11, 2011: Deer Park VFW unveils colorful memorial
Published: 7/30/2012  3:55 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 30 , 2012

Audit in progress
Don’t wait to sign up for Avista’s in-home energy audit if you’ve been thinking about having your home checked out for as low at $49. The deadline for registering is midnight August 3 for residents in the City of Spokane and unincorporated areas of Spokane County. After that date, federal funding will end for the two-year pilot program that provides specific recommendations to help Spokane County homeowners make informed decisions about actions they can take to help save energy. 

The pilot program is a partnership with Avista, Spokane County and the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley. The three local governments support the audit program with Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funds each received in 2010 from the US Department of Energy. Avista manages the in-home energy audit program and has matched funding from its program partners to help reduce the cost of the audit for Avista customers and as part of the company’s long-standing commitment to energy efficiency. Available funding for residents in the city of Spokane Valley has already been exhausted.

During the audit, certified auditors conduct a physical inspection of a home and its major appliances. The auditors also perform a series of diagnostic tests to uncover areas of heat loss or gain. Windows, doors, insulation, furnace, ducts and vents are checked as part of the comprehensive audit. Results and recommendations are provided in a written follow-up report. Homeowners also receive an energy efficiency kit with weatherization items, CFL bulbs and low-flow showerheads.

So, don’t let time run out on you for this great deal.
Published: 7/30/2012  1:09 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 23 , 2012
Video
 
A peek at Avista’s Bald Eagle Management Plan for the Spokane River Project

Post by Brandi Smith

36 years ago, our nation’s bird and symbol of freedom was placed on the endangered species list. Today, the birds are rebounding again across the country and locally.
 
Avista’s Terrestrial Resource Specialist, David Armes, is in charge of implementing Avista’s Bald Eagle Management Plan – something we are required to do as part of our federal license to operate our Spokane River Project’s five hydroelectric facilities. 
 
Our contribution to the protection of the Bald Eagle includes annual surveys and monitoring of Bald Eagle nests located near the Spokane River Project area.  This includes Coeur d’Alene Lake and its three tributaries; the Coeur d’Alene, St. Joe and St. Maries Rivers as well as the Spokane River and Lake Spokane.

While conducting surveys we look to see if the nests are occupied, evaluate the success of the nests and observe the fledging period, a time when newborn Eagles are preparing to leave the nest. 

The information we gather is shared with natural resource agencies, such as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. The information helps shape future efforts for protecting Bald Eagles in the area.  
 
Avista is proud to support the conservation effort of our nation’s bird and will continue our legacy of environmental stewardship and reliability.
Published: 7/23/2012  2:32 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 23 , 2012
Post by Laurine Jue
 
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
sign up
Cherise Lloy
“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
Jim Bonner
“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
Judi Dunn and Jeff Gray
“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
Madeline Martin
 
 
Everyone benefits
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.
 
Published: 7/23/2012  1:21 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 06 , 2012
video
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

In early May, First Wind officially broke ground on Palouse Wind, a wind farm near the town of Oakesdale, Wash., off of State Route 195. First Wind created above video at the event, which captures the sights and sounds of the event, while setting the stage for the project.

The first of 58 towers is expected to be erected very soon. When we get more information, we’ll update the blog.

Last year Avista signed a 30-year power purchase agreement for the renewable wind power that will be generated at the site once it’s completed later this year.

The wind farm is expected be the largest renewable energy facility in Whitman County with 58 turbines and the capacity to generate enough clean, renewable energy to power about 30,000 of Avista’s customers’ homes.

The power we get from Palouse Wind will be part of a diverse, responsible energy portfolio that includes renewable resources generated right here in eastern Washington. In addition, the project is helping Avista invest in our infrastructure through the transmission upgrades we’re making so we can connect the power to our system. Palouse Wind will help Avista meet its goal of providing reliable energy to our customers at a reasonable cost, while meeting renewable portfolio standards in Washington.

The groundbreaking ceremony included speakers from Avista, First Wind, Vestas, as well as several elected officials from Whitman County and the surrounding area who discussed the benefits of the project to the area’s economy, the surrounding communities and Avista’s customers.

Check back with us for more updates.
Published: 7/6/2012  9:28 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 02 , 2012
 
Natural gas rates were lowered 6.4% in Wash., 6% in Idaho in March

Natural Gas Flame

Wholesale natural gas prices have been declining in recent years, which is very good news for customers who use natural gas in their homes and businesses. If you’re a Washington or Idaho customer, you may recall that natural gas rates decreased on March 1 by an overall 6.4 percent and 6.0 percent respectively.  We also requested on June 1 to decrease rates again for our Washington natural gas customers as part of the annual true-up of energy efficiency program costs.

But lower wholesale natural gas costs have added challenges to offering energy efficiency rebates and incentives to our customers in Washington and Idaho, making the programs no longer cost effective. It costs more to provide natural gas energy efficiency rebates and incentives than it costs for the natural gas that customers use.

That’s why Avista has requested to suspend the natural gas programs in Washington and Idaho effective September 1. If the utility commissions in the two states approve the requests, customers would still have time to get their rebate and incentive forms to Avista.

Find out more in today’s news release on the requests.
Published: 7/2/2012  7:18 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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