By Philip Reed
This was another year full of unexpected challenges and developments, meaning that looking backward to choose only 10 stories to spotlight was extremely difficult. The articles we published in Closed Circuit covered a wide range of topics, but I have done my best to curate a list of some of my favorites.
I wish to extend my appreciation to everybody who wrote for the magazine this year, contributed to a story or took the time to read the publication. If one of your particular favorites didn't make the list, that's only because we had so much great content to choose from.
This was also the first full year in the magazine's history that Closed Circuit was distributed strictly digitally. Thank you to everybody who has reached out to share their views on this unplanned development. Your feedback will help shape the future of the magazine, so please do not hesitate to reach out and let me know your thoughts.
As editor, I do hope that you enjoy this look back at the year that was. See you in January.
#10: I2T Summit goes virtual – January
On Nov. 18-19, 2020, WAPA held its Inclusion, Innovation and Technology Summit with the theme Innovation Takes Everyone in a Changing World. It was the fifth event of its kind, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was held 100% virtually for the first time. It was also the first two-day incarnation of the event, allowing for more speakers, greater attendance and a longer Innovation Challenge.
#9: In-house skills save millions on FIMS upgrades – March
This year, WAPA's financial management software received a series of upgrades. Compared to similar upgrades to the software that were performed in 2016, the cost was around $5 million lower. This was due to a larger reliance on in-house expertise and a mutually beneficial partnership between Finance and Information Technology.
#8: SN, Trinity partner for wildfire prevention – May
As wildfires become a greater risk with each passing year, WAPA has taken the initiative across its 15-state footprint to proactively protect its transmission lines and the power that they provide to customers. Sierra Nevada's partnership with Trinity Public Utilities District is just one example of these efforts, but it is an important one.
#7: Facility closure leads to discovery of older site – November
In March 2019, Archaeologist Dave Kluth visited a WAPA communication site in Erhard, Minnesota, to perform a survey. The process of dismantling it led to an unexpected discovery, which in turn led to around two years' worth of analysis and research that unearthed the history of a family who had occupied the area more than 100 years ago.
#6: Opening our eyes to DEI – September
Leadership Development Specialist Sarah P. reflects on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. In the process, she discusses a notification she received about Islamic holidays and the opportunity for education that it offered. She also focuses on other opportunities she's had to expand her horizons, and emphasizes the value of doing so.
#5: Spring disturbance flow charts new highs, lows – June
When repairs were necessary on the apron at Glen Canyon Dam, Colorado River Storage Project Management Center employees saw their opportunity to gather crucial data about flooding…without the need for an actual flood. The data would help them to understand how to best support the health of the river, and thanks to the necessity of the repairs, they were able to do it with minimal impact to hydropower production.
#4: WAPA's sUAS program lifts off – July
Aviation's Small Unmanned Aircraft System pilot program allowed for the support of field crews while surveying and inspecting miles of transmission line, and the devices ended up saving both time and money, as well as increasing safety for linemen. The units may even offer benefits to other WAPA programs.
#3: Long hauler discusses one full year of COVID – April
Auditor Lisa O'Brien started feeling the symptoms of COVID-19 in March 2020, just after returning from a trip to Hawaii. She is still dealing with the effects today, and is classified as a “long hauler." As a result of her experience, O'Brien turned to advocacy, providing resources for other long haulers and working to ensure that they are heard and understood.
#2: Winter energy shortage tests grid limits – May
When frigid temperatures cascaded south across the country in February, demand for electric power surged and generation faltered. Electric grids from Montana to Texas buckled under the strain. The Southwest Power Pool had to roll blackouts throughout its 14-state power grid to avert a disastrous, long-term outage. Addressing the situation required quick thinking, collaboration and partnership.
#1: Drought conditions may impact hydropower – August
This summer, drought became an even more serious concern for many WAPA customers than it had ever been before. Employees from Desert Southwest, Rocky Mountain and Sierra Nevada spoke about the actions each of their regions has taken to address and mitigate the impacts as effectively as possible. WAPA continues to plan and collaborate with customers in this changing climate.
Note: Reed is a public affairs specialist.