Smart Grid NW Hosts Symposium on Demand Response

posted Sep 20, 2016


The Council’s Seventh Power Plan found that demand response — when utilities pay customers to use less electricity when the power system is stressed — is the least-cost solution for providing new peaking capacity. It helps balance the system by reducing peak demand, shifting loads, and helping integrate resources like wind and solar into the system.

The Council recommends that at least 600 megawatts be developed to meet the region’s peaking and system adequacy needs. To help make this a reality, Smart Grid Northwest is hosting the Demand Response Symposium, in collaboration with the Council, the Bonneville Power Administration, regional utilities, demand response providers, and other stakeholders.

The symposium will also include the participation of the Pacific Northwest Demand Response Project, which since 2005 has been the primary forum for researchers, regulators, and utilities to share information, build best practices, and overcome barriers to demand response in the Northwest. The conference is targeted for leaders at regional utilities who want to learn more about developing and implementing demand response.

Follow updates on the symposium on social media using hashtag #NWDR16

The Council has recently formed a demand response advisory committee to help the region develop the recommended demand response resources identified in its power plan. It also plans to form a system integration forum to coordinate its analysis of DR resources, along with other emerging technologies such as energy storage, distributed generation, and smart grid advances, which could integrate existing resources more effectively across the grid. As the region continues to focus on lowering carbon emissions, evaluating the value of these alternative resources, and how best to implement them if they prove cost-effective, will be important to maintaining the reliability and affordability of our power system.



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Fun With Sturgeon

posted Sep 20, 2016

"Scooter," a replica sturgeon, was part of the Council's display.

A six-foot fiberglass sturgeon, coasters in the shape of the toothy mouth of a Pacific lamprey, temporary sturgeon tattoos, a sturgeon coloring page, and a big map of the Columbia River Basin were all part of the Council’s interactive display at this year’s sturgeon festival in Vancouver, Washington. The annual September event, designed for families, attracted more than 400 people to the city’s Water Resources Education Center on the Columbia River on a rainy Saturday.

The festival, a partnership between the city and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, informs people about sturgeon and Columbia River ecosystems and offers a variety of opportunities to learn about fish and other animals in and around the Columbia River. The Council took the opportunity of the festival to explain the work underway on behalf of sturgeon through the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. And also, of course, to have some fun with children and their parents – showing the size of the Columbia River Basin, talking about the dams and species of fish and wildlife found throughout the basin, passing out the stickers, tattoos and coasters, and using the model to show the unique features of sturgeon.

Patrick Cooney, Julie Harris, and Evelyn with a sturgeon age chart

Historically, sturgeon in the Columbia system were highly migratory – they were capable of going hundreds of miles up the Columbia and to and from the ocean during their long lives. Sturgeon can live more than 80 years and grow to weigh more than a ton. Some populations are land-locked, either because dams block their passage to the ocean or, in the case of Kootenai River white sturgeon in northern Idaho, they were isolated by geologic upheavals thousands of years ago.

Hydropower dams have adversely affected sturgeon by altering the velocity and timing of river flows, which are important for spawning. Sturgeon also are susceptible to changes in water temperature, and the turbidity and depth of the water, all of which are affected by dam operations. The Council’s fish and wildlife program devotes about $13 million annually out of a roughly $260 million budget to mitigate the impacts of hydropower dams on sturgeon, most of it on the Kootenai River population, an endangered species. Only the population downstream of Bonneville Dam, the only Columbia Basin sturgeon whose passage to the ocean is not blocked, is considered healthy.

Council Fish and Wildlife Division staff member Lynn Palensky with visitors to the Council's display

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Making Electric Vehicles a Growing Presence on the Road

posted Sep 19, 2016


At its September meeting in Spokane, Washington, the Council heard more about initiatives by utilities to help customers switch to electric vehicles.

John Francisco, Inland Power and Light, described their incentive program to install fast-charging stations in homes. Qualifying customers can get a $250 rebate with proof of purchase and installation. According to Francisco, over 40 percent of carbon emissions in Washington come from the transportation sector so more electric vehicles on the road means cleaner air. The cost savings in gas is significant as well; electricity costs compared to gasoline is 70 percent cheaper.

Rendall Farley, Avista Corp., presented information about their plans to install chargers in homes, businesses, and public spaces to gather data about electric vehicles and the power system. The utility also plans to launch a project that would let customers drive an electric vehicle for a week to see if it would work for them. Beginning as a 6-9 month pilot project, it would enable their customers to test an EV before making the commitment to purchase.


According to the Council's conservative estimate, by 2035 we could keep $2 billion dollars per year in the region, mainly by reducing the amount of gasoline purchased from producers outside the region. While the initial cost for an electric vehicle can be more expensive, the fuel savings more than make up for the extra expense and their maintenance costs are usually lower, too.


The Regional Value of Electric Vehicles

Avista to Begin Installing Electric Vehicle Chargers in Homes, Workplaces




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Cool Relief

posted Sep 15, 2016

Pumping cool water from depth into the top of the adult fish ladder at Lower Granite Dam improved passage conditions for salmon. Photo: Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Now that summer is over and, with its passing, also the potential for dangerously warm conditions for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers, the state and federal agencies responsible for dam operations and fish passage can look back and assess their efforts to protect fish, particularly summer-migrating sockeye salmon. The conclusion: Better coordination of decision-making, less-extreme water and weather conditions, and improved fish-passage conditions at two Snake River dams helped achieve near-normal fish survival levels.

Reporting this week to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council at a meeting in Spokane, state and federal representatives said the total sockeye count at Bonneville Dam, the first place inland from the ocean where fish can be counted, was about 342,000, far more than the pre-season estimate of 110,000. The 2015 run was about 500,000. Most of the Columbia River Basin sockeye run spawns in the Okanagan River of British Columbia, and also in north central Washington’s Wenatchee River. The smallest and most precarious component of the run, Snake River sockeye, an endangered species, totaled 1,032 fish at Bonneville this year, compared to about 4,000 in 2015. Excessive heat decimated the sockeye run last year between Bonneville and McNary dams, but this year about 83 percent survived through the same stretch of river.

Survival from Lower Granite Dam, the last the fish cross, to the Stanley Valley was about 54 percent, which is better than average, Paul Kline of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said. Survival from Bonneville Dam to the Stanley Valley also was better than average this year, about 44 percent, Kline said.

Kline and other agency representatives told the Council that improved communication among the agencies this year helped speed and coordinate the response to warming conditions, which appeared to be building to a repeat of 2015 early this spring before dissipating. Kline also noted the Corps of Engineers’ efforts to cool water in the Snake River at Lower Granite and Little Goose dams this year using cold-water releases from Dworshak Dam on the North Fork Clearwater River and a new device at Lower Granite Dam that pumps cool water into the adult fish ladder. The Corps of Engineers also experimented this year with pumping cool water into the ladder at Little Goose Dam, the next dam downriver. While the cooling greatly aided fish passage at the two dams, the effect largely was gone by the third dam, Lower Monumental. As a result, though, it was not necessary this year to declare a fish-passage emergency in the Snake River, as it was last year.

Overall, sockeye survival through the Snake and Columbia rivers this year was good, Trevor Condor of NOAA Fisheries told the Council. Juvenile Snake River sockeye survival between Lower Granite and Bonneville dams was calculated at 79.6 percent for fish that migrated in the rivers, but just 51 percent for those transported in barges, a significant difference that has been noted in recent years, as well. Survival through Bonneville Dam for juvenile sockeye from central Washington and British Columbia was similar, 81 percent, Condor said. Survival of adult fish from Bonneville to Lower Granite Dam was 78 percent for fish that migrated inriver as juveniles, and 43 percent for those that were transported.

“It was a bit warmer this year than last, and so this is a good indication that some of the improvements we made for adult passage did provide a benefit,” he said.

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Upper Columbia Salmon Habitat

posted Sep 14, 2016

Fishing platform downstream of Chief Joseph Dam. Photo: Upper Columbia United Tribes.


The careful, multi-agency analysis of whether, when, where and how to reintroduce ocean-going salmon and steelhead to the Columbia River above Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams is on schedule and on budget, representatives of the Upper Columbia United Tribes told the Northwest Power and Conservation Council at a recent meeting in Spokane.

In the 2014 revision of its Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council adopted a strategy for mitigating the impacts of dams like Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee that block salmon and steelhead from their historic habitats. The strategy allows for mitigation actions “…that may include [dam] passage investigation, reintroduction of anadromous fish, habitat improvements, and harvest opportunities for the loss of salmon and in blocked areas of the Columbia Basin that historically had runs of anadromous fish,” according to the program.

There are many challenges to reintroducing anadromous fish into the Columbia above Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams, should reintroduction ultimately be considered feasible. A few of these include how to move juvenile and adult fish around the two dams, finding appropriate habitat, where and how to raise juvenile fish, the species that would be introduced, significant predation issues by existing fish species in Lake Roosevelt, and capturing adult and juvenile fish for transportation, if that is considered preferable. For now, as called for in the Council’s program, the first step is an assessment of potential habitat.

The Spokane Tribe of Indians will conduct the assessment, which is expected to last into next year. The habitat assessment is focusing on tributaries that flow into Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam. The assessment has $150,000 in place, two-thirds of it from the Bonneville Power Administration and the remainder from the Bureau of Reclamation. The Council approved Bonneville’s share of the funding last April.

“I hope this assessment will tell us which way to go and which bodies of water will have the best chance of success for the future,” BJ Kieffer, Director of Natural Resources for the Spokane Tribe, said.

Kieffer said the Spokane River and its tributaries have the potential for up to 5,000 miles of habitat. The assessment will narrow and define that potential more precisely, he said.

The habitat assessment will use multiple computer models to determine the potential for habitat to support ocean-going fish including life-stage trajectories to estimate the number of juvenile or adult fish that could be supported in each tributary river reach during each life stage. The assessment is a collaborative effort funded by the Bonneville Power Administration through the Council’s fish and wildlife program, the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Grand Coulee, and tribal funding.

Collaborating with the UCUT are other tribes in the United States, First Nations in British Columbia, where the Columbia River begins, federal agencies that operate dams and manage habitat, and state fish and wildlife agencies.

Meanwhile, the Council is preparing a paper on fish passage at high-head dams like Grand Coulee. The purpose of the white paper is to identify and evaluate the current methods and emerging technologies of various fish passage systems used either at high-head dams or those that could be applied to dams of any size and capacity.

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No Gain

posted Sep 14, 2016

The Invasion Strengthens

posted Sep 13, 2016

Cold Water Refuge

posted Aug 11, 2016

Building on a Legacy Resource

posted Aug 5, 2016

Salmon Smorgasbord

posted Jul 14, 2016

Tapping Into Geothermal Energy

posted Jun 21, 2016

Fish And Warm Water Don't Mix

posted Jun 20, 2016

Going, going, almost gone

posted Jun 7, 2016

Early Warning System

posted May 27, 2016

In the (Efficient) Spotlight

posted Apr 25, 2016

The Mystery of Swan Lake

posted Apr 13, 2016

A boost for northern pike removal

posted Apr 13, 2016

They're back, and they're hungry

posted Mar 23, 2016

Warm ocean, small salmon: Why?

posted Mar 7, 2016

Seventh Power Plan Homestretch

posted Dec 15, 2015

Touring Baker Dam

posted Jul 8, 2015

Forest Fires and Fish Habitat

posted May 19, 2015

This Plan Is Your Plan

posted Apr 30, 2015

Lunch and Learn With the Council

posted Mar 31, 2015

Scenario Analysis Begins

posted Feb 11, 2015

Scenario Analysis Is Coming!

posted Jan 22, 2015

"The Objectives Process" begins

posted Dec 11, 2014

Why We Plan for Uncertainty

posted Nov 19, 2014

Why We Have a Regional Power Plan

posted Oct 29, 2014

Estimating Energy Efficiency

posted Oct 24, 2014

Seventh Power Plan 101

posted Oct 6, 2014

BPA Energy Efficiency Funding

posted Mar 12, 2014

Weathering a Cold Snap

posted Jan 17, 2014

The Seventh Power Plan

posted Dec 11, 2013

Designing for Efficiency

posted Nov 12, 2013

The Flexibility Challenge

posted Oct 30, 2013

Northwest Q & A: Robert D. Kahn

posted Oct 29, 2013

Tagging Sturgeon in Astoria

posted Aug 22, 2013

Habitat Tours Focus on Results

posted May 31, 2013

Sustainability Is Success

posted May 29, 2013

A Last Look at Condit Dam

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Changing Minds, Changing the Land

posted Jul 26, 2011

Wind Power, Then and Now

posted Apr 18, 2011

The Rebound Effect: Is It Real?

posted Feb 1, 2011

An Update on Didymo

posted Jan 27, 2011

Didymo: A New Kind of Invader

posted Jan 18, 2011

A Good Year for Returning Salmon

posted Sep 30, 2010

Building a Better Battery

posted Aug 11, 2010

Using Batteries to Store Energy

posted Jul 28, 2010

Growing Summer Energy Demand

posted Jul 26, 2010

California's Energy Scene

posted Jul 23, 2010

Ensuring Efficiency

posted Jun 21, 2010

Making Wind Work

posted Jun 7, 2010

Clean Tech Draws VC Funding

posted May 3, 2010

And the Wind Came Up

posted Apr 6, 2010