Aug 01 , 2012
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.
Jul 30 , 2012
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.
Jul 30 , 2012
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.
Jul 23 , 2012
A peek at Avista’s Bald Eagle Management Plan for the Spokane River Project
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.
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.
Jul 06 , 2012
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.
Jul 02 , 2012
Natural gas rates were lowered 6.4% in Wash., 6% in Idaho in March
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.
Jun 28 , 2012
Will summer ever get here? That’s seems to be a common question heard around the Spokane area these days and at Avista too. As you make plans for the upcoming weekends and July 4 holiday, we want to keep you up to date on changing conditions in the Spokane River as well as educate you about a project we are working on at the Post Falls Dam.
We’ve started closing spill gates at our Post Falls Dam now that Coeur d’Alene Lake is back below the maximum summer level of 2,128 feet. However, heavy rainfall throughout the month of June has slowed our process, and we’ve had to make ongoing adjustments to accommodate river flows, which have increased rapidly on a number of occasions, as recently as Tuesday, June 26.
Closing spill gates causes the river level below the dam to decrease. With this in mind, the spill gates need to be closed gradually, so that fish below the dam are not stranded in pools of water. To achieve this we close spill gates at a rate that decreases the downstream river level no more than four inches per hour, which is required by our Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license to operate our dams on the Spokane River.
As the river flows stabilize, we continue to close the remaining spill gates. As the spill gates are closed the elevation of the river above the dam increases, which provides additional recreational opportunities on the river. Once the final spill gate is closed, the Q’emiln Park boat launch in Post Falls can be opened for the summer season. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and mid-July. The median date for closing the gates is June 22. We don’t expect to close the final spill gate until after July 4 due to this year’s rainfall and extended high spring runoff season.
We’d like to remind you to always exercise caution on the water, as river and lake levels can change at any time depending on weather and other factors. The water is still cold, which puts those who are recreating on or near a lake or river at risk for hypothermia.
The best way to get the most current information on anticipated elevation changes on Coeur d’Alene Lake, Lake Spokane, and the Spokane River is to call Avista’s 24-hour telephone information line.
In Idaho, call (208) 769-1357; in Washington, call (509) 495-8043.
The recorded information is provided to advise shoreline property owners, commercial and recreational users of changes in lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use. You can also check current river and lake levels on our website.
Avista’s summer work at Post Falls Dam
The dam needs ongoing maintenance and updates to keep it running safely and efficiently. This summer after the spring runoff season ends, Avista will be undertaking two projects to do that.
We’re planning to sandblast, repair and repaint the south channel spill gates, something that needs to be done every 30 to 40 years. We also plan to replace the lifting hoist and old timber intake gates that let water flow through the dam to the generator turbines at Post Falls Dam with new lifting hoists and steel gates.
Normally the generator turbines can pass about 5,400 cubic feet per second (cfs). Any additional water has to flow through the spill gates.
During the work, at least two generator units must be taken offline, which reduces the amount of water the power house can pass at any one time. This means the total river flow will need to be lower than normal before we can close all the spill gates and the Q’emiln Park boat launch can be opened.
Depending on weather, this will likely be about the second or third week of July.
During the project, we’ll do our best to minimize the disruption to recreation and power generation as much as possible, but the work is important so we can continue to safely generate clean, reliable hydropower. We'll be sure to keep you updated as the project reaches completion.
Jun 20 , 2012
School’s out and the weather is finally beginning to warm, which will have many of you making summer river and lake recreation plans. Before you head out for fun on the water, we would like to provide you with information about current river flows and lake levels, as well as our plans for summer operations at Post Falls Dam.
The amount of snow in the mountains continues to be well above normal, because the cool weather has slowed the snow melt. At the beginning of June, Avista began closing spill gates at Post Falls Dam. However, above normal June rainfall has again pushed Lake Coeur d’Alene above its summer elevation. Avista has had to re-open all spill gates and current flows in the Spokane River are more than twice the volume we would normally expect this time of year.
With snowpack still over 200 percent of normal for the Spokane River basin, and a forecast of cooler and wetter than average weather, the runoff is expected to continue well into the summer.
Avista will likely be spilling excess water over the spillways at Post Fall Dam until after the Fourth of July holiday this year. Because of the open spill gates, the river upstream of Post Falls Dam will continue to be lower than normal until after the runoff season, and the City of Post Falls boat launch at Q’emiln Park will not open until after July 4th. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and mid-July. The median date for closing the gates is June 22.
Avista operates our hydroelectric facilities with a focus on several different objectives:
Meeting customer demand with reliable energy service
Operating safely and efficiently
Complying with local, federal and state regulations and laws
Being good environmental stewards
Providing recreation opportunities
Safety on the river
As always, we ask you to exercise caution on the water, as river and lake levels can change at any time depending on weather and other factors. The water is still cold, which puts those who are recreating on or near a lake or river at risk for hypothermia, even in warmer weather. Here is some other important safety information for your consideration:
Always wear a lifejacket on the water.
Obey all safety and warning signs.
Never fish, play or anchor your boat below a dam.
Sudden discharges can increase water flows in a hurry.
Don’t cross the boater safety cable above a dam. The current could pull you through a spill gate or drag you under water near a powerhouse.
Watch overhead clearances like cables and power lines when sailing.
The best way to get the latest information on anticipated elevation changes on Coeur d’Alene Lake, Lake Spokane, and the Spokane River is to call Avista’s 24-hour telephone information line.
In Idaho, call (208) 769-1357; in Washington, call (509) 495-8043.
The recorded information is provided to advise shoreline property owners, commercial and recreational users of changes in lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use.
You can also check current river and lake levels on our website. Property owners and lake users are reminded to make necessary preparations, including removing boats from the water, and removing or securing docks and boathouses to accommodate changing water conditions.
For more information on lake and river levels, please call Pat Maher at (509) 495-4283.
Jun 08 , 2012
The gray skies and damp days have certainly been a bummer over the last few weeks. Isn’t summer supposed to happen around June? But, as a signal to some light at the end of the tunnel, a huge rainbow spread across the Northwest yesterday. Avista’s Michael Williams happened to be at Riverfront Park last evening and snapped the image above.
The rainbow looks to be sticking out of our Upper Falls power house, which generates hydroelectricity for downtown Spokane. Clean, renewable and cheap hydropower is certainly a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for our region.