More than 150 attendees from across the United States, Canada and even Europe came to Loveland, Colorado, May 17-18, to share best practices in utility field work, get an update on federal regulations and learn about the latest advances in safety equipment.
Navigating new rules The 2016 Fall Protection Symposium, cosponsored by Western and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, offered an in-depth look at all these topics in depth. With the new fall protection standards Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enacted last year, on-the-job safety has become a lot more complex, and many utilities are still climbing the learning curve.
Modesto Irrigation District, a water and electricity provider in California’s Central Valley, is just beginning to develop its fall protection program. MID Line Construction Manager Marty Gonzalez came to the event in part for the networking opportunities. “We want to learn more about what utilities with established programs are doing,” he explained.
Tools improving Gonzalez also hoped to pick up more safety tips for MID crews and look for better tools, an interest many attendees shared.
Several equipment manufacturers were on the agenda and had tables in the conference room to display their latest products. Vendor presentations ranged from the traditional—harnesses, belts, fasteners and ropes—to high-tech. In the latter category, Fabio Bologna from the Electric Power Research Institute discussed the barriers as well as the potential for drone use in utility maintenance work.
Keeping up with OSHA The 2016 symposium attracted many alumni from the previous event who were eager to hear about lessons learned from the first year of applying OSHA regulations. “Things can change quite a bit in one year, so it is worthwhile to get updates and talk about where we can make improvements,” noted Sam Waggoner of Xcel Energy.
David Wallis, who authored and contributed to safety and health standards as director of the OSHA Office of Engineering Safety, shared his extensive knowledge of electrical safety standards and work rules.
Increasing safety and protecting utility workers from dangerous falls is an ongoing challenge that requires commitment from every power provider. Western thanks Tri-State and all the professionals who helped make the 2016 Fall Protection Symposium a success.
The latest Green Power Partnership update on renewable energy use by businesses, government facilities and educational institutions shows the importance of partners in meeting clean power goals. Western customers—and Western itself—figure prominently on the quarterly list released April 25.
There are now 764 Green Power Partners using renewable energy to meet 100 percent of their U.S. organizationwide electricity use. That is a lot of green kilowatt-hours (kWh)—16 billion annually—to keep the lights on and the equipment humming. The list of power providers needed to supply all that clean electricity is a long one and there are several familiar names on it.
DIY spreading As equipment and installation costs drop, many organizations are adding renewable energy systems on their own facilities. Omaha, Nebraska-based Morrissey Engineering supplements its green power purchase from OPPD with on-site generation. The city of Durango, Colorado, has partnered with LPEA on community solar gardens.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory generates 20 percent of its electricity on-site with solar panels. The remaining 80 percent comes from Western and private renewable energy companies.
Other notable achievements Western customers appeared in the ranking not just as providers but as partners. The University of Utah came in at number 86 in the overall Top 100 Green Power Partners, and was number 14 in the Top 30 colleges and universities.
Los Angeles World Airports, served by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, ranked 23rd among local government green power users. Sustainability pioneer CPAU was number 28 on that list.
Long-term power contracts, for five years or longer, play an important role in growing the renewable energy market. BD, a global medical technology company, signed a 20-year purchase power agreement with Nebraska Public Power District for more than 120,000,000 kWh of wind power.
Western customers go above and beyond to provide their consumers with the products and services they need, including cleaner, greener electricity. We look forward to seeing their names become a growing presence on future Green Power Partnership lists.
The 14th annual awards, presented in Orlando, Florida, honored Tri-State in the generation and transmission (G&T) cooperative category and San Isabel for wind energy development by a distribution cooperative. The two power providers were selected by a panel of experts from the wind industry, utilities, government, national laboratories and cooperatives.
Years of data inform San Isabel development Located in Pueblo, Colorado, San Isabel Electric Association (SIEA) is a leader in wind power development in the state dating back more than a decade. In 2004, the co-op installed an anemometer to assess the wind potential in Huerfano County. Then-Under Secretary of Agriculture Tom Dorr and Gigi Dennis, state director for the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program, were among those attending a public outreach meeting SIEA held to demonstrate how the tower worked. When the tower was completed, state and local officials gathered for a “tower-raising” event at the site to celebrate the project’s energy and economic development potential.
In the following years, data from the tower assisted with educational research and renewables development in the area, leading to the commissioning of SIEA’s Huerfano River Wind Project in 2013. The 8-megawatt (MW) project now supplies 5 percent of San Isabel’s annual kilowatt-hour requirements. As the largest community-owned, distributed-generation wind facility in the region, Huerfano River required extensive analysis and unique protective relay schemes to ensure that it would not affect the bulk electric system of Tri-State, SIEA’s wholesaler.
San Isabel is now partnering with the Electric Power Research Institute and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for a demonstration project using remotely controlled water heaters and electric thermal storage units to absorb the intermittent wind power. “These solutions can help to break down the integration barriers for smaller scale distributed energy projects,” said San Isabel General Manager Reg Rudolph. “I am proud of the leadership San Isabel has shown in developing this project, creating a working model for others to follow.”
Learning while growing renewable portfolio Although Tri-State has been purchasing wind power since 1998, the G&T’s first experience pursuing a utility-scale wind project came in July 2009. The 51-MW Kit Carson Wind Power Project, located in the service territory of Tri-State member KC Electric Association, gave Tri-State valuable experience in new procurement and contracting processes, as well as integrating a variable resource.
That experience enabled Tri-State to rapidly acquire new wind resources, including 67 MW from the Colorado Highlands Wind (CHW) Farm in 2012, and another 24-MW expansion of CHW in 2013. Tri-State plans to add 150 MW from the Carousel Wind Project near Burlington, Colorado, in 2016 after the completion of a major transmission line. The G&T is currently evaluating a short list of renewables project submitted through a 2014 request for proposal to bring on an additional 20 to 150 MW in the coming year.
To give its member systems the opportunity to participate in community-based renewables projects, Tri-State has an innovative program to incentivize project development within members’ service territory. To date, Tri-State members have 42 projects in place or under development, including SIEA’s Huerfano River Wind Farm.
“Including hydropower, renewable energy has been integral to our operations since the company’s founding,” noted Tri-State Senior Vice President of Energy Management Brad Nebergall. “With our commitment to investing in new technologies and operating responsibly, we are at a point today where over 20 percent of the energy we provide our member systems comes from wind and other renewable resources.”
Honoring wind development Western’s Renewable Resource Program, in partnership with the DOE Wind Program and NRECA, created the Wind Cooperative of the Year Award to recognize electric cooperatives for their effort to bring the benefits of wind energy to their customers. Wind power supports more than 50,000 jobs across the country, provides cost-competitive, clean energy to cities and communities and helps to eliminate more than 115 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Western congratulates San Isabel Electric and Tri-State for their commitment to making wind power part of their portfolios. Their leadership demonstrates that with a little creativity and a lot of determination, clean, renewable energy is an option now available to both large and small cooperatives.
The Relight Mountain Village program provided town residents with deeply discounted LED bulbs to improve lighting efficiency in their homes or businesses. Cooperative Business Lighting Partners sold a variety of LED bulbs at a reduced rate to Mountain Village residents. San Miguel funded the discount with a generous rebate passed through from its wholesale power provider, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, along with $20,000 from the town’s energy reduction projects budget.
Cooperative Business Lighting Partners estimates that the project will reduce the town’s overall energy use for lighting by 518,998 kilowatt-hours annually, and have a payback period of less than four months.
United Power in Brighton, Colo., is hosting the workshop in its Civic Room from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and it promises the same information- and action-packed day our Upper Great Plains customers enjoyed at the April workshop. “We appreciate United Power offering the use of their facilities for the workshop,” Said RM Energy Services Representative Bob Langenberger. “It’s a good central location for many Western customers and Tri-State members.”
“Tri-State has always made an effort to provide its member systems with the tools and programs they need to help promote energy efficiency,” explained Tri-State Marketing Coordinator Ron Ebenkamp. “Recently, several of the Tri-State member systems expressed interest in an IR camera workshop, so we decided to team up with Western to offer training.”
A busy day
As with previous IR workshops, we have invited speakers who have a wealth of experience in thermography and camera uses. FLIR and Fluke are providing the equipment for the hands-on training portion of the workshop, along with case studies of how utilities used the cameras to detect line and substation loss. And as always, Gary Hoffmann, Western’s Equipment Loan Program manager, will be on hand to remind participants that the program gives them the opportunity to test drive different camera models.
One of the reasons the IR workshop is so popular is that we tailor the agenda to focus on issues unique to the region. The Rocky Mountain perspective on IR camera use is being provided courtesy of Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association. Energy Use Specialist Gary Myers will present the customer service side of thermography use during energy audits, while Operations Manager Glen Livengood will cover the Poudre Valley’s plans to use IR cameras to maintain its distribution system.
Member Services Manager Myles Jensen said, “Poudre Valley has benefitted from IR camera inspections for many residential and commercial audits, and for some distribution equipment inspections. I think our case study will give workshop attendees a new appreciation and understanding of what an inspection program can do for their utilities.”
The big attraction, however, is the hands-on training geared to participants’ individual experience. Attendees will conduct inspections on selected facilities, learn tips for more effective audits from the pros and print out reports at the end of the day. The workshop wraps up with a question and answer period to help attendees address any issues that came up during field training.
Don’t wait to register
In short, the day-long workshop is a crash course on one of the most versatile diagnostic tools available to energy professionals, and all this knowledge can be yours for $100. The registration fee covers class materials, and continental breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack. Meals and breaks will also give you time to network with your colleagues, talk about your own IR inspection program or ask someone else about theirs.
The last workshops drew big crowds and space is limited, so early registration is recommended. Download and fill out the registration form, and fax it to Stevie Moe at 866-484-2373 with your check or money order made out to Clean Energy Ambassadors. The form includes hotel suggestions if you are coming from out of town and need lodging. You can also email Moe with questions, or call her at 406-969-1040.
Finally, if the Rocky Mountain Region IR workshop sounds great, but is too far away for you to attend, contact your Energy Services representative about scheduling an event in your area. As we said, Energy Services doesn’t play favorites—we want all our customers to discover the benefits of IR cameras.
Western invites utility customers in the Rocky Mountain Region to a workshop Aug. 4 on the Bottom Line Benefits of Geoexchange for Utilities, presented by the Colorado Geothermal Working Group.
Geoexchange systems offer utilities numerous advantages, from lowering peak demands to saving heating and cooling costs for their customers. Yet few Colorado utilities are embracing this technology at a scale that could produce significant bottom line results.
This workshop will discuss utility and customer benefits, examine sample business models and explore creative financing mechanisms that favor the geoexchange business model. Case studies from Colorado and other national utility companies will demonstrate how these programs work—and the financial advantages they provide.
The agenda includes speakers from the geothermal industry, as well as utility and government leaders. Presentations will highlight experiences with geoexchange in the region.
According to the Solar Electric Power Association’s (SEPA) 2010 Top 10 Utility Solar Rankings report, the top ranked utilities integrated 561 MW of solar electricity in 2010, showing 100 percent growth over one year.
Utilities were scored in two areas: Solar megawatts installed in 2010 and solar watts per customer. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association was the only Western customer to appear in the first category, acquiring 30.2 MW of new solar power last year. In the second category, Western customer Silicon Valley Power in California ranked first nationally with nearly 40 watts-per-customer. The City of Banning, also in California, moved into the Top 10 by providing more than 27 watts of solar generation per customer.
The report indicated that market growth is increasingly occurring in areas outside of the solar resource-rich regions of California and the Southwest. Another emerging trend the report identified is the move toward more utility-owned solar projects and third-party power purchase agreements, like Tri-State’s purchase from the Cimarron Solar Facility in New Mexico.
While 30 utilities reported owning 140 MW of solar—a 300 percent increase in utility ownership over 2009—utility solar portfolios differed widely in solar project technologies and procurement strategies. Factors such as state policies, utility preference, solar resources, electricity prices and available incentives influence the make-up of the top 10 power providers’ solar holdings. In California, for example, interconnected customer systems continue to supply a significant amount of solar power for municipal utilities like Silicon Valley and City of Banning.
SEPA is holding a webinar June 23 to discuss the report and talk about how utilities are integrating solar power into their energy portfolios, how the solar market has changed and new market trends. The one-hour event will take place 11 a.m. Pacific/2 p.m. Eastern. The cost is free to SEPA members and the media. Register online.
Learn about the latest developments that are making water heaters an even more valuable tool in demand-side management programs. This one-day event at Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association in Westminster, Colo., will cover different types of units, including solar and heat pump water heaters, program design and marketing and best practices.
Registration is free to Western customers ($100 for other attendees), but space is limited, so reserve your place now. Class materials, continental breakfast and lunch are included.