A close-up view of a textured carpet with a gray and white pattern and a single red stripe running through it. The background shows blurred, out-of-focus office chairs, suggesting an office or meeting room setting.

WAPA’s Electric Power Training Center gets an upgrade

Friday, May 3, 2024, marked a significant milestone in WAPA’s history. The Electric Power Training Center hosted an open house to showcase its recent upgrades and renovations. EPTC staff was stationed around the facility informing numerous visitors of the improvements and performing demonstrations in between. 

EPTC’s and WAPA’s history

“The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation developed the EPTC to address situational awareness issues for grid and plant operators trying to restore the grid during the Northeast Blackout of 1965,” said Vice President of Technical Services Steve Yexley. 

It was designed, constructed and became operational in 1971. Reclamation initially located it in the Denver Federal Center to train grid and power plant operators on the operation and restoration of the electric grid. 

“In 1977, the Department of Energy was created along with a newly formed Power Marketing Administration called WAPA that transferred all the transmission assets and power marketing responsibilities of USBR to WAPA,” Yexley continued. “As part of that transfer, the EPTC officially became part of WAPA.”. 

The EPTC began offering courses in 1984 and features one of the few hands-on training simulators in the world. Its Miniature Power System is a scaled-down version of an actual live power system with hydro and wind generation, pumped storage, interconnected transmission and substations, and loads. 

Evolving with the times

Over its 53 years of operation, the EPTC has trained a multitude of plant and system operators from across the globe. However, since the tragic events of 9/11, our focus has shifted significantly. The training center has dedicated its efforts to training the grid and plant operators who are the backbone of the North American grid, underscoring the importance of the program. 

In 2014, WAPA entered a training partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to train hydroelectric plant operators for their agencies. This agreement has saved the partnership and ratepayers tens of thousands of dollars and has produced a highly skilled workforce. 

EPTC renovations

A photo of a man at an electrical light box as four other people look on. The setting is a classroom containing other electrical demonstration pieces of equipment.
Demonstration of Miniature Hydropower and Electrical Replicas: EPTC staff demonstrated the miniature hydropower and electrical replicas, offering a hands-on learning experience about operating various parts of the bulk electric system.

During the EPTC’s open house, the staff showcased various upgrades to visitors. One of the most significant changes was construction of the “Telluride” room. This room is located through the breakroom and involved taking out a significant wall to open the space that will hold future courses. This space features an open concept that includes a newly hung projector screen and a hallway leading to the recently upgraded and dedicated bathrooms. 

“I will say that it is an amazing facility,” Financial Program Analyst Maria Gomez said. “The short tour we were given was so informative, I loved seeing all the real-life equipment up close and in a safe environment. I look forward to taking the Overview NEXT course.” 

Another major upgrade was the EPTC breakroom, which received new kitchen cabinets, flooring, sink, paint and trim. The breakroom had not been touched since the 1990s, and everything was outdated. 

Renovations on the main side of the EPTC included paint, carpet, an EPTC acrylic sign, newly printed photographs lining the office hallway and reconfigured offices.  

“The EPTC manager immediately welcomed me in the new Teams training [Keystone] room. We chatted as a marquis of facts looped on life-size screens. Folks began gathering and browsing through old photo albums spanning decades of history,” Technical Writer Christine Bozza said. “Our first demo showed miniature hydropower and electrical replicas that associates use to learn about operating various parts of the bulk electric system.” 

Bozza noted that the halls were vibrant with colorful photos of power systems and transformers, accompanied by discussions about the center’s history, from its Reclamation days to the present. A second guided tour covered relays, transmission and modernization, culminating in a visit to simulated control and power rooms at the back of the facility. The center was buzzing with activity, including walk-throughs, people sharing food and stories, cameras flashing, and even a visit from a retired associate. He felt the event was a great success. 

“I learned at the open house that the EPTC’s Manager Kyle Conroy, Steve Yexley and the EPTC Team worked together to make their goals a reality. It was both refreshing and inspiring!” Project Manager Eva Lampman said. “I think the renovations and upgrades elevate the professional level of the Electric Power Training Center.”  

“The fantastic technical photographs provided an ‘I know what that is’ moment. Every room looks very nice and very professional,” Lampman continued. “The team nicely completed the signage, and the monitor inside the front office brings a cool, modern touch.” 

In addition, the former storage closet near the front desk became a “video editing room” to provide a space of solitude to edit videos and create voiceovers for future EPTC multimedia projects, continuing to modernize the curriculum. 

Overall, EPTC’S open house event was a success and marked a new chapter for the EPTC and WAPA. WAPA employees can now enjoy new meeting spaces with hybrid capabilities, and students from across North America can have an experience like no other utilizing the MPS and upgraded course rooms.

A photo of several people in a room on the left side of the image watching a man on the center-right as he is talking to them with his hand raised. The room is filled with electrical components that would be used in an electrical sub-station.
An image of a power sub-station control room, with a control center in the middle, surrounded by racks of switches and gages.

Updated Training Room: Recently upgraded with state-of-the-art technology and modern furnishings, WAPA’s Electric Power Training Center now offers its students a refreshed and enhanced learning environment.

A photo looking through the doorway of a storage room cluttered with boxes and other materials.
A photo looking through the doorway of a video editing room with a cubicle on the left side. There is a rack on the right with a tripod in the background.

Before and After: The previous storage closet, cluttered with various equipment and supplies, used to be located near the front desk; it has now been transformed into a state-of-the-art video editing room. This space now provides a peaceful environment for editing videos and creating voiceovers for EPTC multimedia projects.

An image of a classroom type setting, with multiple chairs and two screens in the front of the room. There is an American flag in the corner.
An image of a classroom setting with desks, chairs and two whiteboards in the front.

Renovated Classrooms: The newly renovated classrooms at EPTC have an open-concept design and modern amenities. Each classroom has a projector screen and dedicated bathrooms, creating a fresh and professional learning environment. One example of the renovated classrooms showcases updated paint, carpet, and vibrant photographs, providing a welcoming and functional space for training.

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