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Top 10 stories of 2014

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​by Leah Shapiro

Each December the Closed Circuit announces the Top 10 stories of the year. The stories chosen for 2014 reflect both Westernwide and regional initiatives and many aspects of our business, including Construction, Maintenance, Power Marketing, Power Operations and Safety, most of which tie directly to Western’s Strategic Targets and Roadmap.

Runner up: Aerial maintenance program expands

For four years, Sierra Nevada crews have been perfecting their use of helicopters to perform maintenance on difficult-to-access structures using both live-line and de-energized techniques. The biggest benefit of helicopter work is that it supports employee safety by decreasing fatigue. Aerial maintenance also reduces environmental impact and saves both time and money. Since 2009,

SN crews have completed extensive training and developed a new maintenance program that integrates helicopters as another tool for getting the job done.

10 Crews keep California water flowing

On June 11, SN crews responded to an outage and oil spill at O’Neill Substation and Pumping Plant near Santa Nella, California. The plant was unable to continue pumping water into the Delta Mendota Canal. Drought conditions made restoration critical to meeting water supply demands. Crews worked through the night, receiving high praise from the Bureau of Reclamation and the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

9 They came, we built

In April, Western completed a four-year system upgrade to Watford City Substation in North Dakota. The town’s population boom necessitated the upgrade, and then continued after project began, requiring further expansion midway through the project. Energizing a second 230/115/13.8-kilovolt transformer added redundancy and capacity to the local power system.

8 Symposium shares security information

Western hosted a security symposium for customers, neighborhood utilities and other state and federal agencies, March 13 and 14, to discuss physical and cyber security resources and how they could best share information. Department of Energy Office of Security Assistance Deputy Director Michael Sparks encouraged utilities to focus on the assets that pose the greatest risks to the organization and recommended that utilities determine which ones rank highest in the areas of threat, vulnerability and consequences. Assets that rank high in all three categories are the ones that need the most protection.

7 Asset Management releases risk reports

Western’s Asset Management Program Improvement Project team unveiled the first set of risk reports on some of Western’s critical assets in June. Asset management uses data-driven, risk-based analysis to provide information that helps prioritize maintenance tasks. Project Manager Don Roberts shared, “The probability of our assets failing due to lack of maintenance is very slim.” These reports will become the benchmark for the program and the baseline data for asset condition and risk-ranking.  

6 Fall protection grows, evolves

The year’s big news in fall protection was the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s new standard requiring electricians, electronic equipment craftsmen and linemen to be protected from falls at all times while working higher than 4 feet above a lower level. The standard poses a challenge because the structures craft workers climb were designed before this rule existed. Fall protection training took place throughout the year and across Western’s territory, bringing together employees from other power marketing administrations and safety equipment manufacturers.

The 2015 Power System Safety Manual will incorporate new rules that will meet or exceed OSHA policies. Safety and Occupational Health Manager Patrick Nies explained, “We are worried about preventing falls, not the OSHA regulations. If you address the hazard, then there is no need to worry about the violation.”

5 EPTC hosts diverse, distinguished guests

Western’s Electric Power Training Center had a busy year. In addition to hosting its many training courses, in February they invited Rocky Mountain Power Operations to use the facility to evaluate a power system dispatcher. On March 18, Senior Policy Advisor to Senator Harry Reid, D-Nev., Alex McDonough, received a hands-on demonstration of the EPTC’s Miniature Power System. In July, Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Dan Utech visited the EPTC in Golden, Colorado, to learn more about the complexities and interconnections of the electric grid through the MPS.

4 Glen Canyon Dam celebrates 50th anniversary

The Bureau of Reclamation hosted a celebration honoring Glen Canyon Dam’s 50 years of power production, Sept. 27, in Page, Arizona. Glen Canyon Dam is the largest hydropower producer in the Colorado River Storage Project. Western employees attended the event and displayed the Desert Southwest helicopter, a bucket truck and informational table.

3 DSW achieves 4-year safety record

The Desert Southwest region achieved four years without having a lost-time accident, Oct. 27. A strong culture of safety and across-the-board practice of SafeStart program principles are cited as the biggest contributors to the region’s safety record. Director of Safety Kevin Jensen shared, “This achievement is impressive not only among federal agencies, but especially in our industry.

DSW Safety and Occupational Health Manager Troy Henry added, “A record like this doesn’t just happen; it isn’t luck. We are committed to improving even more. There is still work to be done.” Henry has a clear vision moving forward: to strengthen the safety climate and continue to integrate safety management throughout Western.

2 UGP joins SPP

Upper Great Plains pursued formal negotiations for membership with the Southwest Power Pool, Jan. 9. The decision was made after holding three public meetings, which brought in 237 comments, the majority of which expressed support. Administrator and CEO Mark Gabriel said, “Western will be vigilant in these negotiations to ensure we comply with our legislated requirements and continue to provide reliable, low-cost, cost-based hydropower to our preference customers consistent with sound business principles.”

Gabriel approved and directed UGP to take necessary actions to accomplish full membership with SPP, July 9, stating, “Our comprehensive and rigorous Alternative Operations Study showed joining SPP supports our mission. This business-based decision [helps] us keep costs low and [serve] our customers. Approval is contingent upon [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] approval of the SPP tariff changes.” Full membership is expected October 2015.

1 Roadmap sets 2024 vision

Western’s Strategic Roadmap 2024, along with the Tactical Action Plan, was published May 16, titled “Powering the Energy Frontier. Gabriel shared, “Western’s Roadmap will help us deliver on our mission … by guiding decision making, emphasizing regional relationships and prioritizing work around a single mission and vision.” The Roadmap defines what Western will look like and what role it will play in the industry in 2024.

The 12-page plan identifies four goals, and the TAP outlines seven target areas with both short-term and long-term strategic directions. Gabriel explained, “We are not changing the mission or focus. The Roadmap guides how we will implement our mission in the energy frontier.”

Sierra Nevada Lineman Dean Faller and Foreman III Lineman Brian Adams verify Journeyman Lineman Ryan Yeager and Ryan Wheeler have a tight grip on the marker ball before being lifted into the air to install it on a static line, Nov. 5, 2013. (Photo by Joel Carillo)

Electric Power Training Center Manager Steve Yexley answers questions posed by Congressional staffer Alex McDonough in front of the EPTC's Miniature Power System, March, 18. (Photo by Jen Neville)

The Carl. B. Hyaden Visitor's Center and the Powell Substation ingress towers are seen during the 50th anniversary celebration of Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona, Sept. 27. (Photo by Lynn Jeka)
Page Last Updated: 7/14/2015 6:56 AM