Flathead Electric, youth agency team up on solar storage demonstration

A solar electricity storage project in Kalispell, Montana, combines three things at which electric cooperatives excel: testing new technology to see if it is a good fit for members, helping members lower their electric bills and forming partnerships in the community.

Flathead Electric Cooperative You are leaving WAPA.gov. (FEC) recently selected the Flathead Youth Home to test rooftop solar panels and a Tesla Powerwall battery storage system. The 7.2-kilowatt, net-metered solar array and backup system will save on average about $44 per month on the home’s electric bills while the co-op collects and evaluates performance data on it.

A solar installer mounts panels on the roof of the Flathead Youth Home. The 7.2-kW array will include a storage battery and is expected to save the facility about $44 per month on electric bills.

A solar installer mounts panels on the roof of the Flathead Youth Home. The 7.2-kW array will include a storage battery and is expected to save the facility about $44 per month on electric bills. (Photo by Flathead Electric Cooperative)

Laying groundwork
The battery backup sets this solar installation apart from FEC’s Solar Utility Network (SUN) community solar project and the 38 residential arrays on its system. Energy Services Representative David Bopp is expecting the youth home project to provide deeper insights into the technology. “There is a large potential market for batteries in the future, so we hope to get ahead of it by testing it in its infancy,” he said. “We want to gather data now before people start putting them in and coming to us asking, ‘What can I get?’” 

A committee of utility employees came together to guide the pilot project and provide input on future projects from different perspectives. “The transformative technology committee includes representatives from business technology, member services, GIS, regulatory affairs, public relations and rate design, so they all have a different perspective to offer,” said Bopp. “It formed around the solar project, but we would like to keep it together to evaluate other technologies as they come up.”

Choosing partner
The committee initially considered an employee’s house when it began discussing the project, because the goal was to see how the system worked in a residential setting. But when the time came to site the project, they decided to choose a local charity with a similar electricity-use profile, noting that they could gather data for their purposes and benefit a nonprofit at the same time.

Finding the right charity—and in a hurry—posed something of a challenge to FEC. “It was late in the development process, so we didn’t have time to put it in our newsletter,” Bopp recalled. “We used social media to ask our customers for recommendations, called a nonprofit development group and United Way and brainstormed internally.”

One consideration was that many residential charities have confidentiality and safety concerns, and FEC wanted a partner that could participate in marketing and public outreach efforts. The charity would have to be comfortable with allowing FEC personnel access to the system and with the data being publicized at conferences. The Flathead Youth Home, which provides short- and long-term services to youth, is well established in Kalispell and promotes its work to the public, so it was a good candidate. “Luckily, the home happens to be in a part of town where people can see it, too,” Bopp added.

Installing system
From a technical standpoint, the 10-bedroom facility and administrative office had the right electricity profile. “We needed a minimum use so that the system would not be putting too much electricity back onto the grid,” said Bopp.

Workmen install a Tesla Powerwall storage battery. The demonstration project will help FEC to determine if solar coupled with battery storage can benefit both the utility and its customers.

Workmen install a Tesla Powerwall storage battery. The demonstration project will help FEC to determine if solar power coupled with battery storage can benefit both the utility and its customers. (Photo by Flathead Electric Cooperative)

Built in 2009, the home had good southern exposure and was relatively new so it didn’t need structural or efficiency upgrades. If the building owners were going to make any energy efficiency improvements in the near future, that would have to be factored into the electricity use data. “We wanted a steady load,” Bopp explained. “The home could qualify for a lighting upgrade rebate but that isn’t going to be a big enough change to affect the data.”

The system was installed in December, but winter put a hold on completing the wiring for the solar interconnection. The battery’s capability is being tested while final connections wait for winter’s end.  Bopp expects to fire up the system fully and start collecting data this spring.  The Flathead Youth Home will own the system after 10 years and until then the director will give tours on behalf of the co-op.

Diversifying technologies, energy supply
One of the central goals of the pilot is to discover if solar coupled with battery storage has ancillary benefits for both customers and FEC. The technology committee suspects that system might be useful in helping to manage peak load. The project will test that assumption and help the utility answer questions about rates, incentives and control going forward. “By testing batteries in their infancy, we can figure out how to use them while making sure we are fair to all our members,” said Bopp. 

The utility battery storage pilot project is the first in Montana, just as FEC’s SUN program was the state’s first community solar project. Electricity rates are so low in the region that renewable generators often have a discouragingly long payback period. However, renewable energy is still attractive to customers who have environmental concerns, are interested in energy independence or have remote loads to power.

FEC supports these customers with a net-metering policy, and by acquiring diversified resources. In addition to the residential solar arrays, there are four small wind turbines on its system. The utility owns a 1.5-megawatt landfill gas-to-energy facility and has purchase power agreements for electricity from a small hydropower generator and a biomass facility.

Source: ElectricCoop.com You are leaving WAPA.gov. via Green Power News, 1/24/17

Webinar offers guidance on marketing community solar projects

March 1
11 am-12 pm MT

According to a GTM Research report You are leaving WAPA.gov. cited in Public Power Daily, You are leaving WAPA.gov. the community solar market is poised for significant growth in the coming year. However, interest in community solar among utility customers varies widely based on demographic, regional and lifestyle factors. Utilities might be wondering how to design and implement a community solar program that appeals to customers across market segments.

Angela Crooks, from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot program, attended a CSVP Utility Forum meeting, with Carmine Tilghman of Tucson Electric Power and John Powers, from the CSVP team, including this visit to a solar carport at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

Angela Crooks, from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot program, attended a CSVP Utility Forum meeting, with Carmine Tilghman of Tucson Electric Power and John Powers, from the CSVP team, including this visit to a solar carport at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. (Photo by Community Solar Value Project)

Five Steps to Tailored Market Research, You are leaving WAPA.gov. sponsored by the Community Solar Value Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. (CSVP), will move quickly from general guidance to five specific steps that utilities can take to achieve results. The webinar features Jennifer Mitchell-Jackson, a partner in Grounded Research and Consulting You are leaving WAPA.gov.and lead author of a new CSVP market research and market segmentation guide.

Market Research and Market Segmentation for Community Solar Program Success shows how to get a better understanding of different customers’ motivations before you offer a community solar program. This guide describes a five-step process, beginning with assessing research needs and tapping outside sources of community-solar market intelligence, through leveraging available utility data, and carefully designing or obtaining new customer research to address specific needs. It can be downloaded for free from the CSVP website.

The webinar is free but registration You are leaving WAPA.gov. is required. If you can’t participate in the webinar, CSVP will record and archive it for on-demand use.

The Community Solar Value Project represents leading energy thinkers and do-ers, ready to “make community solar better,” from both the sponsoring-utility and customer perspective. Members are working to develop a decision framework for community-solar program design, focusing first on optimal siting and project design, procurement, target marketing and matching with companion measures that attack solar-integration challenges.

Tribal Energy Webinar Series returns with focus on partnerships

WAPA is pleased to once again sponsor the Tribal Energy Webinar Series with the Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs (IE). The series begins Feb. 22 at 11 a.m. MT with Indian Energy: Looking Back and Moving Forward.

“Expanding Tribal Energy Development through Partnerships” is the theme for the 2017 series of 11 webinars. Tribal leaders and staff, as well as anyone interested in working in Indian Country, can participate in the free events. The series supports fiscally responsible energy business and economic development decision-making and promotes information exchange with the 565 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native sovereign nations, bands, villages and communities.

As national concerns about energy sufficiency and security have risen, American Indians and Alaska Natives have recognized the potential economic and self-determination benefits of energy resource development on their lands. Tribal lands consist of more than 56 million acres, or 2.3 percent of all land throughout the U.S. An estimated 17.1 million acres hold existing and potential fossil energy and mineral resources and about 5 percent of the country’s technically feasible renewable energy resource potential. Tribes with minimal fossil energy, mineral resources or renewable energy potential could benefit from other energy options, such as energy efficiency, demand-side technologies and collaborative supply arrangements.

Comprehensive agenda
Now in its fifth year, the Tribal Energy Webinar Series continues to meet critically important educational needs for tribal communities. Attendees will discover tools and resources for developing and implementing tribal energy plans, programs and projects. Webinars will provide case histories and business strategies tribes can use to expand their energy options and develop sustainable local economies.

The webinars are scheduled February through December on the last Wednesday of the month at 11 a.m. MT. Topics include:

  • Feb. 22 – Indian Energy: Looking Back and Moving Forward You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    The first webinar in the series provides an overview of Indian energy in the U.S. and the mission of the IE office. Speakers will cover past successes, future plans and how to add value and streamline government procedures for tribes interested in energy development and self-determination.
  • March 29 – Federal and State Policy Impacts to Tribal Energy Partnerships You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Developing energy resources through partnerships is complex and can affect both tribal and non-tribal communities. Learn about state and federal requirements that could impact energy projects on tribal lands depending on the type of project, location, size and other considerations.
  • April 26 – Spending Energy Dollars Wisely You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Presentations will explore strategies, tools and technical assistance opportunities to develop a deliberate approach to maximizing energy dollars. Tribal guest speakers will share their successes and lessons learned in pursuing, developing and implementing strategic approaches to wise energy investments.
  • May 31 – What Energy Project is Right for my Tribe? You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Learn how to identify appropriate energy projects, from a small renewable generator for a single residence or building to a utility-scale project requiring transmission interconnection and a purchase power agreement. The pros and cons of ownership and leasing, differences among various renewable and conventional technologies and potential project barriers will be covered.
  • June 28 – Tribal Project Partnerships You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Hear about successful partnerships and how the successes can be replicated throughout the U.S. This webinar will be of particular interest to tribal nations and energy industry professionals interested in expanding their energy resource options and increasing economic development and self-determination.
  • July 26 – Powering Your Community with Tribal Energy You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Speakers will address the steps to developing a 1- to 2-megawatt energy project on tribally owned or controlled property to serve the energy needs of the tribal community.
  • Aug. 30 – University Resources for Tribal Partnerships You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Explore how relationships between universities and tribal nations can foster greater economic development, self-determination and energy independence for the tribes. Speakers will talk about successful university programs and initiatives on energy and the environment that are valuable resources to tribes.
  • Sept. 27 – Fundamentals of Organized Energy Markets for Tribes You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Find out how the expansion of establishments such as the Southwest Power Pool and the California Independent System Operator is will create opportunities for those looking for more energy resource options or to buy and sell energy resources, especially on tribal lands.
  • Oct. 25 – Tribes Working Together You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Generation and transmission and joint-action agencies offer business models for jointly owning, procuring and building new transmission and power generation projects Learn about these and other partnership opportunities that can support tribal energy independence and self-determination on tribal lands.
  • Nov. 29 – Partnerships for Utilities and Tribes Initiative You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    This webinar introduces a new initiative to facilitate stronger and improved relationships between tribes and the utilities or energy companies that serve them. Another possible benefit of this effort is improved employment of tribal members in utility and energy sector jobs.

Register today
Be a part of expanding energy self-determination among our country’s American Indians and Alaska Natives by registering for any or all webinars. There is no charge to attend, but registration is required. Attendees must have internet access, computer compatibility with GoToWebinar software You are leaving WAPA.gov. (free download) and a phone line. Recordings of the 2016 webinar series and archived recordings  from past years are available to download.

Upcoming deadlines

New program to develop energy-efficiency ratings for window coverings

Fact sheet, website present initial data

(Artwork by Attachments Energy Rating Council)

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Window Covering Manufacturers Association You are leaving WAPA.gov.  are launching a program to help consumers make informed decisions about products with significant energy-saving potential: window coverings.

The nonprofit Attachments Energy Rating Council You are leaving WAPA.gov. (AERC) is leading the effort to develop an energy certification and rating program for storm windows, awnings, drapes, shutters, shades, blinds and screens.

AERC has been compiling data for the past 18 months and recently unveiled a website where visitors can learn more about its mission, find resources for evaluating building efficiency and read reports from partnering organizations. One report, Window Attachments: Call to Action, targets utilities. It outlines the energy-saving benefits of window attachments, the market size for the product category and the potential effects of an energy certification program.

Why window coverings?
Properly chosen and installed, window attachments can upgrade the performance of existing windows and save up to 13 percent of a household’s annual energy use. Energy savings are not the only benefits window coverings offer homeowners. Far from being purely decorative, window attachments:

  • Enhance daylighting
  • Reduce draftiness
  • Minimize glare
  • Increase thermal comfort
  • Provide privacy
  • Muffle outdoor noise
This thermal image shows how windows are a major source of heat loss on buildings.

This thermal image shows how windows are a major source of heat loss on buildings. (Photo by Attachments Energy Rating Council)

According to the DOE, 80 percent of all households have window coverings, while complete window replacement—a more expensive option—occurs in 2 percent of U.S. homes annually. This creates an opportunity to save consumers energy and money by making the attachments more energy efficient. The AERC rating will help consumers identify products that save energy and increase comfort, and open a space for new utility programs.

Another advantage of window coverings is that homeowners would not have to change their behavior to get the benefits from window coverings. As utility program managers know, it can be difficult to maintain energy savings from measures that require customers to learn new behaviors. However, a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that people already use window coverings in a way that optimizes energy efficiency. For example, people in southern climates tend to keep their window coverings closed in the summer. In terms of persistence, once homeowners invest in storm windows, they generally keep them installed and in good condition.

Ratings rollout
AERC has begun to rate, certify and label attachment products, starting with interior and exterior storm windows, cellular and pleated shades, blinds, solar screens and interior and exterior roller shades. Look for the first AERC-certified window coverings in retail stores by June or July, with additional product categories appearing in late 2017 and early 2018.

If you think efficient window coverings might provide the basis for a new customer efficiency program, bookmark the AERC website so you can follow the publication of the ratings. In the meantime, learn more about window coverings by downloading the fact sheet from Energy Services Publications and visiting Window Coverings and AttachmentsYou are leaving WAPA.gov. an online guide to choosing the right treatment for each window.

Source: Attachment Energy Rating Council, 1/31/17

Requested: Your ideas for UEF Pre-Forum Workshop topics

Deadline extended to Feb. 15, 2017!

The 37th annual Utility Energy Forum You are leaving WAPA.gov. is just around the corner, and with it, the Pre-Forum Workshop for utility and government attendees. This exclusive session is a candid roundtable discussion about pressing issues facing power providers and the government agencies that support them. The program committee is inviting attendees from those sectors to share their greatest concerns in an online survey You are leaving WAPA.gov. by Feb. 8. The topics that get the most votes will be included on the workshop agenda.

This year’s theme, “Change is the Only Constant – Customers, Policy and Technology,” sums up the challenges of doing business in today’s electricity industry. The main agenda offers many perspectives on what customers want, what utilities can do to meet those expectations and what policy makers can do to help.

The workshop, however, is the place to really get into the weeds on how change is reshaping everything from daily operations to long-term planning. If you are worrying about depreciating assets or new net-zero developments in your territory, this is the place to talk about it. If you wonder what kind of skills your employees will need to manage the new environment, suggest that topic. If you are trying to figure out how to work with customers who want to install energy storage batteries on their homes or businesses, the workshop offers the chance to learn from others. And that only scratches the surface.

You don’t have to be attending the Utility Energy Forum, May 3-5, to vote in the survey. All utility professionals and government representatives can contribute their valuable and much-needed perspective. For those who miss the event, Energy Services Bulletin will be reporting on the big stories, and speaker presentations will be posted on the website.

But there is nothing like a face-to-face conversation with your colleagues to get the wheels turning. We hope you will join us at the Hilton Sonoma in Santa Rosa, California, to share ideas, discuss solutions and think about where you—and our industry—are going.

Submit presentation proposals for Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange

Deadline: Feb. 27, 2017

WAPA customers are known for creating initiatives worth imitating, and we would like you to share yours for the 11th Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange You are leaving WAPA.gov.(RMUEE). Proposals for sessions You are leaving WAPA.gov. are due Feb. 27, and the Advisory Committee is particularly interested in topics from utilities and government agencies addressing this year’s theme, “Initiatives Worth Imitating.”

(Art work by Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange)

Power providers are taking residential, commercial and industrial programs to a whole new level using imagination to create new offerings, innovation to improve existing programs and integration to break down the silos of thinking. Your successes should be on the agenda when more than 100 utility and government representatives and trade allies meet in Aspen, Colorado, Sept. 27-29.

Conference attendees will be exploring case study best practices and lessons learned about programs related to energy and water efficiency issues and integration with renewable energy, demand response and key account customer management. Special consideration will be given to suggestions for sessions that address:

  • New energy-efficiency and demand-management technology
  • Strategic onsite energy and distribution system management
  • Workforce culture and program staffing challenges
  • Pay-for-performance approaches
  • Consumer engagement
  • Indoor growers and other commercial customer segments at the water/energy nexus
  • Electric vehicle charging, energy storage and other new end-use applications

You may choose a format for your presentation from several options:

  • General or breakout sessions up to 20 minutes in length with Q&A
  • Snapshot panel talks up to five minutes in length
  • Poster discussions during the Wednesday evening reception
  • Workshops or Roundtable Discussions two to four hours in length (for Friday morning)

There is also more than one way to participate. If you have never attended the RMUEE and don’t yet have a program to share, you could be eligible for one of a limited number of scholarships. Or maybe you would like to sponsor the event, a great way to promote your organization. Learn more about these options from the FAQ sheet.

Whatever your level of participation in the RMUEE, you will enjoy an outstanding learning and networking experience in a relaxed atmosphere conducive to sharing. You may even turn this year’s inspiration into next year’s “boffo” presentation.

New Year offers many educational opportunities

Changes and challenges are coming to the utility industry in 2017, along with plenty of new tools and innovative approaches you can use to not only manage but master the shifting landscape. Here are some upcoming workshops and courses to help you prepare for what the New Year has in store:

Utility Scale Storage Battery Investments: The Technology, Challenges and Business Case You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
Feb. 7-8, 2017
San Francisco, CA

Storage batteries have been around for a while, but integrating them into transmission and distribution systems is new territory for electric utilities. Until recently, it was difficult to make a business case for investing in utility-scale storage. However, the integration of more intermittent and non-dispatchable resources into utility portfolios is changing the cost-benefit equation. Storage batteries provide high-speed response, controllability, modularity, scalability, expandability, flexibility and transportability—exactly the attributes utilities are going to need for the foreseeable future.

Make it your New Year’s resolution to expand your professional horizons and prepare for the changes coming to the utility industry.

This seminar provides an overview and guided tour of proven battery technologies from different manufacturers, challenges of interconnection, investment requirements, typical storage battery power purchase agreements, settlement equations and investment guidelines. The seminar materials cover the full spectrum of applications for utilities, regulatory agencies, project developers, private investors, finance firms, wholesale market participants and owners of wind and solar power plants.

The International Association for Continuing Education and Training You are leaving WAPA.gov. (IACET) has authorized energy training and consulting firm EUCI You are leaving WAPA.gov. to offer one continuing education unit for the course. Attendees will also receive a copy of the presentations and other reference materials.

Introduction to Forecasting for Utility/Power Industry Professionals You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
Feb. 7-8, 2017
New Orleans, Louisiana

Load forecasting has always been an invaluable tool for helping utilities manage uncertainty. But pre-computer era forecasting practices do not account for a host of bewildering conditions that now affect electricity use. Changes in the mix of supply- and demand-side resources, the impact of technology on the grid and access it allows to system and customer data and dramatic shifts in commodity prices are just a few of the factors that traditional methodologies are failing to capture.

Fortunately, new forecasting methods have been developed to address challenges such as demand forecasting, renewable generation forecasting and price forecasting. This course offers an introduction to modernized forecasting principles, practices and their applications in the utility industry. It will be loaded with examples and illustrations that translate these methodologies into the resulting utility practices.

Attendees will get the essential tools for making sense of today’s power environment and delivering proper guidance for industry decision-makers. An IACET credit is also available for this class.

AESP National Conference 2017 You are leaving WAPA.gov.
Feb. 13-16, 2017

Orlando, Florida

“Destination Innovation” is the theme of the 27th annual conference of the Association for Energy Services Professionals. This event draws top program managers, policy makers, implementers, marketers, evaluators, consultants and vendors in energy efficiency. The extensive agenda will cover the range of current topics in marketing, tools and technology, implementation, program design, research, evaluation and more.

In addition to speaker presentations, panel discussions and networking events, this year’s conference offers pre-conference training courses. Attendees can either focus on program planning, design and implementation or brush up on their critical thinking skills, while earning .5 CEU.

2017 PACENation Summit You are leaving WAPA.gov.
Denver, Colorado

Feb. 13-15, 2017

New and innovative versions of property-assessed clean energy (PACE) legislation and programs are gaining support across the country. Learn more about this 100-percent voluntary strategy to fund energy upgrades to buildings while creating jobs, increasing property value and making progress on state policy goals. The second annual Summit will offer an in-depth look into the growth in residential PACE financing, new PACE products, strategies and programs in development and more.

Newcomers and PACE practitioners alike can will benefit from the opening workshop, PACE 101 Workshop. Presentations will cover legislation to project implementation, including best practices in legislation, local ordinances, program design, financing options, marketing to building owners and training of contractors. Add a wide range of sessions led by PACE experts and an abundance of networking opportunities, and you have a crash course on a valuable tool for growing energy efficiency in your community.

Utility Energy Forum You are leaving WAPA.gov.
May 3-5, 2017

Santa Rosa, California

Program development and networking are central to the Utility Energy Forum, now in its 37th year. The sessions will challenge traditional thinking and ask attendees how they are preparing for a different energy utility industry than the one they knew.

This year’s theme, “Change is the Only Constant – Customers, Policy and Technology,” is appropriate not only for our industry, but also for the new location. The Hilton Sonoma, in Santa Rosa near California’s wine country, will host the forum. What hasn’t changed, however, are the sessions “ripped from today’s headlines” (or rather, from our daily experiences), the outstanding speaker roster, and the abundance of networking opportunities. WAPA Energy Services representatives will be there, too, and we look forward to some face-to-face time with our customers.

E Design 2020: Accelerating Utility Innovation for the New Energy Consumer You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
May 10-11, 2017
San Francisco, California

This first-of-its-kind event focuses on creating utility products, services and experiences for the customer of today and tomorrow. Forward-thinking utility leaders and experts from outside the utility space will explore innovative approaches and design-oriented experiences from a variety of industries to demonstrate how these strategies can be applied at utilities. E Design 2020 askes attendees to leave their comfort zone, uncover high-potential partnerships and discover ways to embrace technological changes that will affect residential and non-residential customers.

After introducing attendees to the design-oriented approach, the comprehensive agenda covers distributed energy, demand-side management, energy services, technology and targeted customer programs. The event highlights empathetic thinking to discover customers’ underlying needs and find new ways of developing products and services that will turn customers into allies.

Learn from past, shape future
It is not too late to benefit from some of the excellent training events of 2016, either. Presentations from the previous Utility Energy Forum and Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange You are leaving WAPA.gov. are available online.

You can also download materials from the Behavior, Energy & Climate Change Conference (BECC), presented annually by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The conference looks at human behavior and decision-making and how to use the knowledge to accelerate the transition to an energy-efficient and low-carbon future. The session abstracts You are leaving WAPA.gov. and some PowerPoint presentations You are leaving WAPA.gov. are available for free, or you can buy the full proceedings.

This is the time to let ACEEE know what you would like to see on the 2017 BECC agenda. ACEEE will issue the call for abstracts Feb. 10 for presentations that:

  • Identify key lessons about behavior and decision making that advance energy/climate solutions
  • Help integrate research insights throughout the value chains of energy-using goods and services
  • Expand support for social science research as applied to the biggest contributors to today’s energy challenges
  • Facilitate knowledge accumulation, exchange and collaboration across analytical approaches from micro to macro (e.g., individual, group, organizational, societal behavior, and decision making)

Even if you can’t make it to any of these events, you still have plenty of options in online education. From the Community Solar Value Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. to webinars presented by the Energy Department’s Better Buildings Initiative to the American Public Power Association DEED programYou are leaving WAPA.gov. Make it your New Year’s resolution to check the events calendar on the Energy Services home page regularly and take time to expand your professional horizons.

Equipment Loan Program changes with the times

Chris Lyles, who took over as the new manager of WAPA’s Equipment Loan Program in August, is making some updates to the popular program that reflect the changing needs of our customers, as well as advances in technology.

The Equipment Loan Program stocks infrared cameras, power meters and other diagnostic tools for WAPA customers to borrow free of charge.

The Equipment Loan Program stocks infrared cameras, power meters and other diagnostic tools for WAPA customers to borrow free of charge.

Planning the future
The increasing availability of easy-to-use diagnostic tools is prompting Lyles to look at new ways the Equipment Loan Program can support WAPA customers. “It’s possible now to walk into Home Depot and pick up a pocket-sized infrared (IR) camera for a few hundred dollars that will serve the purpose for a home energy audit,” he observed. “So we are asking ourselves what other needs our customers have that the program can meet.”

One answer is to stock more sophisticated versions of consumer-level tools for linemen and electricians to use for industrial audits and transmission and distribution system maintenance. The boroscope, for example, allows the user to take thermal images in tight spaces where just pointing and shooting with an IR camera might fail to pinpoint the problem. Utility field crews can use the LineTracker power monitor to diagnose fast-moving and minute malfunctions in overhead lines.

Providing instruction on the proper use of borrowed equipment is another one of Lyles’s goals. Currently, customers can find general equipment training resources on the Energy Services website, but Lyles has something more specific in mind. WAPA plans to produce videos that explain how to use the equipment, and post them on WAPA’s YouTube channel. The URLs will be sent to customers in place of physical manuals when they borrow a tool, providing a quicker, easier start when using the equipment. Perhaps most importantly, the customized videos will give customers a more personal connection to Energy Services and WAPA.

Help shape the program
The Equipment Loan Program and Energy Services have always provided WAPA customers with a direct line to technical assistance and support for their maintenance, load management and planning needs. Those needs have evolved—a slow-sounding word for the rapid-fire change occurring in our industry—and we want to make sure our services keep pace. Your input, suggestions and feedback are crucial to the direction the program takes.

Tell us what kinds of tools you would like to see added to our library. “Our equipment inventory should reflect that we understand the changes going on in the industry and that we know how to help our customers deal with them,” Lyles explained.

If you know of an online resource that gave you a better understanding of a borrowed tool, share that with Energy Services. The same goes for that clever solution you discovered while using it. The Equipment Loan Program is your program and we are eager to hear how we can better serve you.