By Philip Reed​

This year was like no other, I’m sure we can all agree. Looking back at it to choose only 10 stories to spotlight is even more difficult than usual.

Closed Circuit covered a wide range of topics in 2020, with WAPA’s many accomplishments, innovations, programs and initiatives taking the spotlight at various points. This was also the first year in which Closed Circuit was distributed to customers, and I hope they have enjoyed our coverage.

If you don’t see your favorites, that’s okay; there isn’t enough room in a top 10 for all of the best articles. Many of my favorites are missing, too! As editor, I do hope that you enjoy this look back at the year that was.

10 Students get hands-on experience at EPTC – April

Early this year—pre-COVID, of course—a group of around 20 ninth-grade students from John F. Kennedy High School in Denver, Colorado, visited the Electric Power Training Center. They toured the facility, attended lectures and even simulated the management of events on the EPTC’s Miniature Power System.

9 Transition to new RCs complete – February

After more than one year of preparation and testing, WAPA successfully completed its transition to new reliability coordinators for its balancing authorities and transmission operators in the Western Interconnection. It was a complex WAPA-wide change, involving around 140 employees from all across the organization.

8 Vegetation Management benefits Navajo – November

In a year as active as 2020 has been in terms of wildfires, the benefits of Integrated Vegetation Management cannot be overstated. In July, Desert Southwest crews performed IVM along the Navajo-to-Long House Valley 230-ki­lovolt transmission line in Arizona. They worked with the Navajo Government to coordinate the work, which even generated firewood for the community.

7 New capability shields grid from solar storms – November

Did you know space weather can impact the electrical transmission system on Earth? WAPA recognizes this potential risk to its transmission assets and customers, and has partnered with the Electric Power Research Institute’s SUNBURST program to develop ways to protect the grid and remain resilient in the face of an unpredictable sun.

6 Grounding stirrup solves multiple issues – January

When designing a solution to one issue regarding ground cables at substations, Electrical Engineer Gary Zevenbergen ended up solving a different, related problem as well. What was originally an engineering improve­ment ended up also being an ergonomic one, with a new grounding stirrup design both keeping cables at an appropriate distance and making them easier to install.

5 SCADA vendor project reaches milestone – September

WAPA had three separate supervisory control and data acquisition and energy management systems, each with a primary and backup control center for a total of six control centers. They each evolved independently, with different hardware, software and maintenance agreements. In June, WAPA selected a single vendor, allowing the systems to be standardized for greater redundancy.

4 WAPA rescues synchrophasor data – May

In late 2019, Peak Reliability Coordinator closed its doors for good. One of many considerations involved what would become of its synchropha­sor data, which may have captured power-system events that could be helpful to study. On a very tight timeline, WAPA coordinated with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to get the valuable data copied and archived before it was lost forever.

3 WAPA-hosted event team wins Science Bowl – August

Each year WAPA sponsors a number of regional Science Bowl events. The winners move on to the National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C., where they compete with other teams from across the country. This year’s big event was instead held virtually, but Preston Middle School—winner of the WAPA-hosted Colorado Regional Middle School Science Bowl—emerged victorious.

2 Reflecting on rolling it back – June

Vice President of Transmission System Asset Management for Sierra Nevada Will Schnyer discusses the phrase “we roll it back,” commonly used after an incident or accident has occurred. In doing so, he reflects on what he has witnessed in the field, as well as the advice he shares with his employees and his son.

1 Heating up the demand – October

The California Independent System Operator had predicted a potential capacity shortfall by 2020, the cumulative result of powerplant retirements and increased renewables. In August, that prediction became a reality. WAPA leapt to action, and the organization’s timely intervention helped alleviate the ca­pacity shortfall. Situations like these truly demonstrate the value of hydropower.

Last modified on September 12th, 2023