Northwest Efficiency Exchange 2016 in Coeur d'Alene

posted Apr 28, 2016

Lake Coeur d'Alene

The premier conference for energy efficiency professionals in the region and beyond was held this week in Coeur d'Alene, and we were able to talk to a few people about their work to get an idea of what the future holds for energy efficiency.

Kicking off the event were our own distinguished efficiency experts, retiring Power Division Director Tom Eckman, Conservation Resources Manager Charlie Grist, Senior Energy Efficiency Analyst Tina Jayaweera, and Senior Energy Efficiency Analyst Kevin Smit. Here's their presentation (video and slides) on energy efficiency from a historical perspective and where we see it headed in the Seventh Power Plan, which found that almost half of residential efficiency will come from new measures.

The areas with the most potential are in lighting, heating and cooling systems, and internet-based control systems that manage those home and building HVAC systems. Keshmira McVey, energy efficiency program manager at the Bonneville Power Administration, talks about their potential:

One of the exciting developments in energy efficiency is the growing collaboration among all the various players in the field, both in the private sector and in government. Jodi Bellacicco, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is program manager for a pilot project that aims to connect clean energy small businesses with National Lab expertise, facilities, and equipment to help them overcome commercialization barriers. It's a joint project led by Department of Energy Labs: Berkeley Lab, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories.

Simple, non-tech changes like window coverings can also have a significant impact, as Katherine Cort of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory explains. Honeycomb designed shades, for example, could lower energy use 10 to 18 percent.

We also heard about the potential of plug-in electric vehicles to enhance the power system from John Morris, Morris Energy Consulting. PEVs could help reduce emissions while improving the efficiency and stability of the power system.

The conference, which continues to grow each year, illustrates why the Northwest has become a hub for energy efficiency development: When you have the opportunity to share the knowledge of so many people, progress is possible. 






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In the (Efficient) Spotlight

posted Apr 25, 2016


The Bonneville Power Administration and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, in partnership with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and utilities throughout the Northwest, are hosting the fourth annual Efficiency Exchange conference this week in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. See the joint agency press release.

The regionwide event focuses on promoting technical innovation and new ideas in utility energy efficiency programs. This year’s conference kicks off with a general session on energy efficiency in the Seventh Power Plan, which the Council adopted in February. The plan concludes that energy efficiency is the key to meeting our region’s future demand for electricity.

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Hot River, Dead Salmon, Lessons Learned

posted Apr 15, 2016

A sockeye with fungus from heat stress sought cold water in Drano Lake, a Columbia tributary near Bonneville Dam last July.

The summer of 2015 was disastrous for sockeye salmon migrating through the Columbia River. On their way home to the Okanagan and Wenatchee rivers in Washington, and the Snake River in Idaho, the fish had to pass through a lethally hot Columbia.

Beginning in late June and continuing through July, unusually low runoff from a below-average snow pack, combined with a lingering drought and hot weather, boosted the water temperature in the Columbia to intolerable levels for salmon. More than a quarter million sockeye died between Bonneville and McNary dams.

State fish and wildlife agencies and Indian tribes scrambled to find ways to cool the river, but for many fish, including endangered Snake River sockeye, it was too late. Fish that migrated on the edges of the heat wave, in early June and late July, fared better than the bulk of the run, but the result still was devastating. No Snake River sockeye that crossed Bonneville Dam after July 16 survived to Idaho, just 2 percent of the Okanagan sockeye counted at Bonneville made it home, but Wenatchee fish fared better perhaps because that river was a little cooler than other tributaries.

Last week, NOAA Fisheries, which directs river and dam operations under the Endangered Species Act, reported to the Council on the lessons learned from the summer of 2015, lessons that will prove useful in the future if predicted climate warming occurs and river conditions more frequently become dangerous for cold-water fish like salmon.

“All the Columbia tributaries were running brutally hot,” NOAA’s Ritchie Graves, chief of the Columbia hydropower branch, told the Council. Some tributaries in Idaho and Washington reached nearly 80 degrees; the Columbia reached 73 degrees, and the Okanagan hit 83. Anything over about 68 degrees stresses fish, and prolonged temperatures over 70 are lethal.

“Instances like this could occur more frequently in the future, and we need to prepare,” Graves said.

Probably the most important lesson from last year’s emergency is that decision-makers need to react faster to help the fish, he said.

“Last year we probably talked too much,” he said. ”It took days or weeks to talk through some of these things. People had the best interests of the fish at heart, but it all took too long.”

Russ Kiefer of Idaho Fish and Game, who joined Graves at the Council meeting, agreed. “Some of the operating changes took longer because we weren’t dealing with a lot of facts, we were depending on a lot of beliefs. The management community needs to be ready to act more decisively in an emergency like this,” he said.

Other lessons learned included:

  • Adult fish ladder counts may be biased during high-temperature periods, as fish fall back through turbines or the ladders or stray in search of colder water downstream of the dam
  • Fish ladder temperature monitoring and reporting could be improved
  • Cold water releases from large storage reservoirs like those behind Grand Coulee and Dworshak dams reduced downstream river temperatures slightly, but the effect dissipated rapidly
  • Truck transportation of adult sockeye from Lower Granite Dam appeared to be an effective “hedge” strategy for Snake River sockeye, one Graves called “a wise decision last year.”


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The Mystery of Swan Lake

posted Apr 13, 2016


Fish “detectives” are using biochemistry to try to unravel an intriguing mystery: How did walleye get into Swan Lake?

While “detective” is not an official job title at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the department is using high-tech instruments to investigate the origins of two walleye caught last October in the pristine, Northwestern Montana lake, which has 13 unique populations of bull trout, a threatened species, in its drainage basin.

Just two walleye might not sound like a threat, but the fish breed prolifically, feed voraciously and, if a population takes hold in the lake, the threat to bull trout would be very real. Sawn Lake is highly regarded for the quality of its water and habitat, particularly for bull trout. The department’s concern is shared by the fishing community. Following discovery of the fish, seven fishing and conservation organizations contributed a total of $5,000 and another contributed $10,000, adding to a reward of up to $15,000 offered by the state – total $30,000 -- for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons who introduced the predators, which are not native to the lake.

The problem is not only with walleye. Other warm-water species including crappie, perch, and lake trout also have been illegally introduced into Montana lakes.

The threat to Swan Lake is particularly troublesome, though, as the lake has been identified as a refuge for cold-water species like bull trout if the predictions of climate models prove correct and the amount of habitat for cold-water species like bull trout declines over time.

“It’s a smart place to invest in habitat and fish conservation,” Matt Boyer, fisheries mitigation coordinator for Fish, Wildlife & Parks, told the Council at its April meeting in Missoula. 

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is not after the reward, but its laboratory sleuthing could help identify where the fish came from, and that could help fishery managers as well as law enforcement address the problem. At the Missoula meeting, Boyer and Sam Bourret, Hungry Horse mitigation fish biologist for the department, described the use of microchemistry to study the ear bones, called otoliths, of the two captured walleye.

A microscopic view of otoliths with their tree-ring like growth rings

Like tree rings, concentric circles of bony growth in otoliths reveal how quickly, and for how long, a fish grew. Otoliths also contain a chemical marker that reveals the unique characteristics of the water where a fish is born and grows. The Swan Lake walleye otoliths clearly indicated the fish were born in another body of water and were in Swan Lake for only a couple of months before they were caught.

But what other water body?

Bourret compared known water chemistry profiles of several nearby lakes with the Swan Lake walleye otoliths and did not find a match. For now, then, the mystery remains. But as water chemistry profiles are compiled and made available for other Montana lakes – not all of the state’s lakes have established water chemistry profiles -- the Swan Lake mystery – and others like it – may be resolved, Bourret said.

Click here to read the Council staff memo:

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A boost for northern pike removal

posted Apr 13, 2016


The screamer headline on the red and white “wanted” posters might as well say, “Wanted: Dead or Dead.”

The signs, soon to be popping up around Lake Roosevelt in northeastern Washington, feature a photo of the bad guy, a benign-looking fish of impressive size, but with no indication of its sharp teeth and voracious appetite for smaller fish – of any kind.

The public information campaign is part of an effort to halt the invasive northern pike, which can grow to a meter in length and consume pounds and pounds of game fish desired by anglers like kokanee and westslope cutthroat trout. Last week, the Council approved a request from the Spokane Tribe of Indians for an additional $69,500 to continue the tribe’s pike removal effort through the end of the current fiscal year.

How the fish got into Lake Roosevelt, which is the Columbia River impounded behind Grand Coulee Dam, is something of a mystery. They may have been introduced illegally by anglers who like to catch them, or they could have come from the Columbia in British Columbia or from the Pend Oreille River, a Columbia tributary north of the border. Both areas have known populations of northern pike.

Regardless how they arrived, they need to go before they take over the lake, ruin fisheries established by the tribe and Washington state, and, perhaps pass over Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams. If they become established downriver, they could wreak havoc on salmon and steelhead.

The tribe’s approach is to gain a better understanding of where the fish are and how many are present – and whether the Lake Roosevelt population, so far confined to the northern end of the lake, is growing. To assess the population, Lake Roosevelt co-managers,including the Spokane and Colville tribes and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, set gill nets at random locations in the lake near Kettle Falls, where sport anglers have been catching pike, and then fish intensely in areas where the random netting shows pike congregate.

Brent Nichols, fisheries manager for the Spokane Tribe, told the Council that in March 2016 the co-managers set gill nets 64 times for a total of 252 hours and captured 22 northern pike, one fish more than in 2015, the first year of the survey work. Based on the catches in the random fishing, they set nets 33 more times at targeted locations based on where pike were found in the random survey. In the targeted fishery, which totaled 139 hours of effort, 49 pike were captured. The project approved by the Council will allow the tribe to conduct surveys and removal efforts through 2017.

Unlike the old-West wanted posters, the tribe wants pike out of the lake dead – not dead or live.

“What we take out we want to keep out,” Nichols said. He said the co-managers considered tagging captured fish and releasing them to see where they go, but decided that is too risky to other fish in the lake that pike prey upon. “We want to focus our limited funds on targeted removal, and not so such much on tracking where they are.”

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