Okanogan PUD sets new summer peak power record

Fiber project submitted for grant

OKANOGAN - Okanogan County PUD broke its previous record for summer peak power usage three days in a row during the June heatwave, June 28-30.
The previous summer record of 110 megawatts was set on Aug. 13, 2015. The record was broken first on June 28, 2021, with 111 MW, then on June 29 with 118 MW and finally on June 30 with 116 MW.
The summer peak record is still far below the PUD’s winter peak record, which is 178 MW.

Lightning causes outage

Summer thunderstorms on July 7 caused a widespread outage and power conservation requests due to Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) maintenance and restoration policies during potential wildfire conditions.
Okanogan County PUD is served via four major transmission lines into the county – one from Douglas County PUD (Well Dam) and three from BPA. BPA was performing normal maintenance on one of their three transmission lines, when it is assumed lightning struck a second BPA line. All customers north of Okanogan went dark at 12:48 p.m. as a result.
The PUD was able to switch customers to the third BPA line, so that nearly all power was restored within 15 minutes of the initial outage. However, the third BPA line has a much lower capacity than the other two, so BPA and the PUD requested power conservation measures. The PUD worked with larger irrigators to reduce some of their load, and thanks all customers who answered the call to conserve.
BPA’s fire mitigation plan requires them to inspect an entire line for damage before re-energizing. They completed their inspection of the transmission line and re-energized at 6:17 p.m., restoring normal operations at that point.

Fiber project seeks grant

The PUD has submitted the Pine Creek Fiber project for grant funding through the state Department of Commerce and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with a total project cost of $5.5 million for fiber to 300 homes.
Manager of Broadband Services John MacDonald presented the project at the July 12 meeting of the PUD commissioners, who approved the submission unanimously. The Pine Creek area was one of many identified by local broadband action teams and is noted by the Federal Communications Commission as “unserved,” as well as having challenges with cellular or traditional phone lines. Nearly 500 poles are already needing replacement in that area, so the PUD would match up to 10 percent of the funding with in-kind make-ready work (upgrading infrastructure to get ready for fiber deployment) and by providing a project manager.
If the state accepts the project, it will be part of a number of projects the state will then submit to NTIA for funding. Without grant funding, the high expense of the project per customer (on average $17,000 per customer) would make it infeasible, MacDonald said. With grant funding, the only customer expense would be the charges from whichever retail service provider (RSP) they sign up with – several RSPs have already agreed to offer services in the area if fiber is built out.
MacDonald said customers in the Pine Creek area have approached the PUD many times for service, but because of the cost, have been unable to move forward. If this project could come to fruition, then it would be a great opportunity for businesses and homes in the area.
The state will announce which projects will move forward for consideration late this month. If funded, the project has a tentative construction timeframe of summer 2022.


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