Chelan County to breathe easier with PUD biofuel switch for Utility Fleet

by Kimberlee Craig | Aug 02, 2016

Several months of testing using 20,000 gallons of fuel made from vegetable and animal fats showed no impact on performance and may lead Chelan County PUD to switch its main fuel source for line trucks and other equipment to “renewable” diesel, Chelan County PUD commissioners heard Monday.

Craig Weddle, Supply Chain and Fleet manager, told commissioners the potential move this fall would cut the utility’s carbon emissions from its diesel-powered equipment by two-thirds each year – or 2.3 million pounds every year.

Advances in refining the renewable diesel – processed without introducing oxygen like traditional biodiesel – means it can run in diesel engines without blending and offers even greater reductions in carbon emissions than biodiesel does while minimizing problems operating in cold temperatures and separating during storage, he said.

PUD line crews also mentioned the lack of fumes from idling trucks as another benefit.

The potential move to renewable diesel could put Chelan PUD nearly two years ahead of state mandates that all publicly-owned vehicles and equipment (with a few exceptions) must run on biofuel or electricity by June 2018.

City of Wenatchee and Fire Districts 1 and 3, that use PUD fuel stations for their vehicles, would be able to make the switch, too, Weddle said.

Renewable diesel right now costs a little more - at least until U.S.-produced supply catches up with demand, Weddle said. The added cost is mostly in transporting the fuel from the closest import location in Portland.

The cost is currently estimated at less than 1.5 percent of the yearly fleet operating and maintenance budget, or about $22,000 to $62,000 a year.

A number of other Northwest utilities and public agencies already are using, or transitioning to, renewable diesel. California state agencies, the cities of Oakland and San Francisco and United Parcel Service also are using it, Weddle said.

There are concerns about losing rain forests in southeast Asia due to the planting of palms for oil to make renewable diesel, he noted, yet increased domestic production and efforts to use other varieties of feedstock could help resolve this issue over time as the biofuel industry looks for additional resources and increased domestic production to bring down fuel costs and damage to rain forests.

In other business Monday, commissioners: 

  • Congratulated five PUD employees for awards and accomplishments.
    • Terry McFadden, foreman materials specialist, will celebrate his 40th anniversary with the District on Tuesday, Aug. 2, and is its longest-tenured active employee. Managers praised him for his selfless commitment to coworkers and Chelan PUD. He joined the PUD in 1976 as a meter reader and worked in clerk positions in Customer Accounting before moving to the warehouse in 1979. He is ninth on the PUD’s all-time tenure list.    
    • Suzanne Grassell, Government Affairs Program Manager, was named a Woman of Hydro Vision by Pennwell Hydro Group, host of HydroVision International and publisher of HydroWorld magazine. The award, made last week at HydroVision in Minneapolis, honors “the most influential women in the hydropower industry.”
    • Gregg Carrington, Energy Resources managing director, received recognition from the Hydro Research Association president for his 2014-2016 service.
    • Teka Parks Sellers, Customer Relations administrator, was named as one of the top 30 Under 35 business and community leaders by The Wenatchee World’s Business World magazine.
    • Security Director Rich Hyatt is the new chairman of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) Physical Security Working Group. In the elected, volunteer position, he will lead about 100 utilities across the West in best practice efforts on compliance and security.
  • Received an update from LocalTel President Dimitri Mandelis on company plans to switch its TV service to all digital in the early morning on Aug. 22. Mandelis said the change will bring the ability to provide more HD channels and align the channel lineups offered in Chelan and Douglas counties. LocalTel purchased the PUD’s video receiving equipment – the “head-end” - about a year ago and provides TV services for 6,000 to 7,000 customers in the region.  An equipment test is planned in the early morning on Aug. 4.  If all goes well, the digital conversion will go as planned. Outreach to TV customers has begun with notifications on the LocalTel website, calls and mailings to customers. Customers with older, analog-only TV sets will feel the most impact, Mandelis said. They will need to order a “DTA” box from LocalTel to receive the digital signals. Newer sets also will be affected, depending on each customer’s set-up. Mike Coleman, PUD Fiber and Telecom managing director, said PUD crews are ready to support LocalTel if there are any issues with the utility’s fiber network during the switch.   
  • Heard that the community focus group working to identify possible locations for a substation on the north shore of Lake Chelan has narrowed the search to at least two sites. The group may continue to pursue a third site for future analysis.  A substation is needed between Chelan and Manson to support growth and development during the next decade. A community meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 24 at Chelan City Hall to present the possible sites and gather feedback before a PUD consultant does detailed analysis. There is more information, including an interactive map of the areas under consideration, on the PUD website at (scroll down). John Stoll, Customer Utilities managing director, will update Chelan City Council members on the effort at their meeting on Aug. 9.    
  • Reviewed second quarter progress on strategic items in the District’s annual performance plan. 
  • Heard an update on the District’s hydro plant crane program that started with assessments in 2012 and is continuing with repairs and replacements to keep them fully operating, safe and reliable. Brett Bickford, Engineering and Project Management director, reviewed the work done so far by contractor Eureka! Engineering of Silverdale. With identification of additional crane work needed at Rock Island Dam and the decision to replace rather than repair the intake gantry at Rocky Reach, Bickford requested that $850,000 be added to the service agreement with Eureka! and it be extended through 2020 to support the District in the additional work. Commissioners approved the changes.  
  • Received an update on the work being done to put the new high density load rate (HDL) into effect by Jan. 1, 2017. Andrew Wendell, Customer Service director, said PUD staff is doing extensive outreach to employees, customer groups and local agencies. Staff also recommended commissioners consider extending the moratorium on applications for HDL service through Dec. 31, 2016. A hearing on the moratorium is already set for Oct. 3, and board members didn’t take any action Monday.
  • Set a special meeting for 9 a.m., Tuesday, Aug. 23, at Confluence Technology Center, 285 Technology Way, Wenatchee, for a board workshop.

 Upcoming events:

  • Aug. 3 – Art in the Park at Rocky Reach, 11:30 a.m.
  • Aug. 15 – Board meeting, 10 a.m.
  • Aug. 23 – Board workshop, 9 a.m., Confluence Technology Center, Wenatchee
  • Aug. 24 – Community meeting on new substation between Chelan and Manson, 5:30 p.m. , Chelan City Hall
  • Sept. – 5 – Labor Day holiday
  • Sept. 8 – Lady of the Lake info cruise, 6 p.m.
  • Sept. 10 – Senior Damboree, 10 a.m., Visitor Center
Outages or Emergencies

Visit our Safety and Outage Center for information, or to report an outage, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, call 1-877-PUD-8123.


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