How much more value could Chelan County PUD’s hydro units deliver for customers if staff could get a heads up on possible problems before an issue interferes with generation? That’s a question employees hope a Public Power Benefit project on hydro research will help them answer.
Kirk Hudson, Generation and Transmission managing director, and John Yale, hydro plant engineering manager, outlined project objectives for PUD commissioners Monday.
Hudson said focusing on two areas – improving data analysis and developing sensor technology – is expected to put the District in a much better position to identify research opportunities and assess the feasibility of a research institute locating in Chelan County.
Supporting a hydro research institute was identified by customers and PUD staff as a project to pursue as a Public Power Benefit. Conversations with other utilities, industry groups and officials led to identifying the two projects at Rocky Reach Dam that might eventually attract research and development and even sensor manufacturing to the area, Hudson said.
“We’ve got an opportunity to help develop systems to better predict problems with the hydro units we don’t see coming,” Hudson said. “From that, you can see what you’re missing and that opens the span of research and development of new technology.”
“The challenge will be converting these two building blocks into research and development in a manner that can sustain itself,” he added.
More useful data also could help fine-tune operations to benefit fish moving past the dam, Hudson said.
“As we improve operations, if we can use data for improving our Habitat Conservation Plans - what a benefit,” said Commissioner Dennis Bolz. “That’s pretty exciting stuff.”
District staff and a consultant will use $250,000 allocated in the initial round of Public Power Benefit funding. Staff recommended allocating an additional $250,000 for this year, for the two areas of research. If results by the end of the year are favorable, another $150,000 may be requested for 2018 to further develop sensor technology.
In other business Monday, commissioners:
- Received an update on power outages at the Miller and Sunnyslope substations. Crews continue to investigate the cause of Friday’s outage at the Miller Substation in Wenatchee, said Chad Rissman, Distribution asset manager. Testing over the weekend brought welcome news that there is no damage to the transformer. Crews are now testing protection system gear. Rissman said a blown lightning arrestor just outside the Sunnyslope Substation triggered equipment there to shut down early this morning. Power was restored to all within four hours and repairs finished later in the morning.
- Received an update on the Public Power Benefit day-use parking pass and the camping pass pilot projects. Natural Resources Director Michelle Smith said Chelan County residents received 2,413 parking passes for use at local state parks during the pilot program that ended last month. Lincoln Rock was the most popular destination, Smith said. Parks staff has processed 581 applications so far for 2017 passes good through the end of this year. PUD staff negotiated a price with state parks of $10 each for up to 2,500 day-use parking passes and $30 each above that. Details on the pilot camping pass program for Beebe Bridge Park will be available soon on the PUD website. Chelan County families will be eligible for one, one- to two-night stay at the Columbia River park owned and operated by the PUD.
- Reviewed the resolution establishing loop rates for the wholesale broadband network. The rate is designed to give local service providers more flexibility in designing retail internet access packages and encourage them to offer a lower-cost product to customers. Mike Coleman, Fiber and Telecom managing director, outlined how the rates will be put into place and evaluated. Commissioners will be asked to act on the proposal on Feb. 6.
- Received a recommendation not to join the region’s Energy Imbalance Market at this time due to low potential net benefit. Bryan Bradshaw, Energy Structuring/Optimization manager, said staff will continue to monitor factors that could impact the District and will return to update the board if the situation changes.
- Were invited to Friday’s PUD Night at the Wenatchee Wild hockey game. PUD staff will be on hand to help customers Discover! services offered by their hometown “power player.” There will be a photo booth with Wild mascot Walt, conservation and parks safety tips and a survey on payment preferences that will enter participants in the drawing for a prize basket with a Wild jersey.
- Jan. 20 – PUD Night at the Wenatchee Wild
- Feb. 6 – Board meeting, 10 a.m.
- Feb. 7 – Board workshop, 9 a.m., Wenatchee boardroom
- Feb. 13 – Leavenworth substation meeting (tentative), 6-8 p.m., location TBD
- Feb. 20 – Presidents Day holiday
- Feb. 21 – Board meeting, 10 a.m. (Tuesday due to Presidents Day Holiday)
- Feb. 22 – Chelan substation meeting (tentative), 6-8 p.m., location TBD
The next regular Chelan PUD commission meeting starts at 10 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in the boardroom at 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.