Commission Meeting News

Chelan PUD seeks to manage dramatic increase in large load requests

by Kimberlee Craig | Dec 18, 2017

Chelan County PUD commissioners Monday received an update on a recent surge in inquires about new large load power services from bitcoin and blockchain operations. They also reviewed plans to respond based on PUD values to ensure the best customer experience and value for existing customers while being responsive to potential new customers. (At 01:30 on the board audio recording.)

John Stoll, Customer Utilities managing director, said the unprecedented increase in high density load (HDL) inquires is putting a strain on the District’s ability to provide the best for the most for the longest. The speed and magnitude of the growing interest in both HDL and large electric services has placed significant strain on PUD staff resources, Stoll said.

During the past two years the market value for bitcoin – a cryptocurrency - has skyrocketed from $300 to around $20,000. Chelan PUD responded to earlier HDL interests in 2015 by working with the community and bitcoin operators to develop reasonable fees and rates for HDLs of up to 5 megawatts (MW). Now that the cryptocurrency market is so attractive, Chelan PUD is seeing dramatically increasing interest by bitcoin miners for much larger loads. The power needs are significant.

The average Chelan County retail load is about 200 MW with a winter peak of 491 MW set in January 2017 – primarily due to cold weather, not bitcoin operations. The PUD has received four inquiries of 100MW or more, each of which will take detailed study if a formal application is submitted. Additionally, there are multiple inquiries in the 10-50MW range and ongoing interest in small “hobby” connections.

At the same time, staff are seeing unpermitted HDLs in residential neighborhoods requiring immediate attention to identify, evaluate and install proper services for safety and reliability reasons – as well as time to get the rogue operators to comply with PUD service requirements, he added.

Stoll said the response to this unprecedented increase in HDL-type inquiries are at the very heart of PUD values, including Operational Excellence, Trustworthiness, Safety and Stewardship. He said PUD staff plans to:

  • Continue to process existing new service applications from those who have paid engineering fees and have all of the required application information completed
  • Answer those with questions on HDL service or large loads  after they’ve completed  a Power Inquiry Form – posted on the PUD website
  • Respond to those wishing to know about power availability at their location once a service application is completed. This will start the process
  • Pre-application meetings will be reserved for those who have completed all application materials, but have technical questions before associated fees are assessed.

In other business, commissioners:

  • Voted unanimously for Commissioner Dennis Bolz to serve as board president for 2018. Bolz, now board secretary, was first elected in 2006. His third, four-year term runs through 2018. It is his second term as board president. Commissioner Garry Arseneault will continue as vice president. Commissioner Steve McKenna, elected in 2016, will serve as secretary. (03:05)  
  • Reviewed alternatives for future operation of Orondo River Park. Michelle Smith, Hydro Licensing and Compliance director, outlined alternatives researched since October when the Port of Douglas County asked that Chelan PUD take over park operations. Commissioners will be asked for a decision on interim operations for 2018 at the Jan. 8 meeting. Following condition and environmental assessments, staff plans to ask for a board decision in May on future park operations and maintenance and land ownership. (00:29)
  • Asked Parks staff to work with Lake Chelan Rotary members to identify ways to resolve concerns about the club’s proposal to install a to-scale “Planet Walk’ in Riverwalk Park. Commissioners also asked club member Russ Jones to gather additional community feedback on the proposal to install interpretive signs along the trail showing the earth’s relationship to other planets in the solar system. Park staff initially declined the club’s offer to pay for installing and maintaining the signs due to safety and maintenance concerns. PUD Board members endorsed the learning opportunity as well as staff concerns asking that the club and staff work together to address identified issues, adding they’d consider a permit to allow the signs, depending on feedback from the community. Jones also offered to have the club set aside money to remove the signs if wear or other issues arose in the future.  (02:03)
  • Were invited to the second annual Fiesta Decembrina celebration on Thursday at the PUD’s Leavenworth office (see details below). Mario Cantu, education and engagement coordinator, said PUD staff will share information with customer-owners on staying safe around power lines, keeping water lines from freezing and where PUD fiber is available. (02:55)

Upcoming events:

  • Dec. 20 – LED Streetlight rate meeting, 5:30 p.m., Confluence Technology Center
  • Dec. 21 – Fiesta Decembrina, 8-10 p.m., PUD Leavenworth office
  • Dec. 25 – Christmas holiday
  • Jan. 1, 2018 – New Year’s holiday
  • Jan. 8 – Board meeting, 10 a.m. (rescheduled)
  • Jan. 13 – Multicultural Festival, Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center
  • Jan. 22 – Board meeting, 10 a.m.  (rescheduled)
  • Feb. 2 – PUD Night at the Wild, 7 p.m., Town Toyota Center

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The next regular Chelan PUD commission meeting starts at 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 8, in the boardroom at 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.