Updated: July 2015
Reader Recap: When that light goes on at the flip of a switch, it represents the balanced coordination of short and long term power purchases, power scheduling, and an array of local infrastructure, linemen, and engineers, that team to provide reliable power to our community and the lab.
Did You Know? DPU is teaming with the New Energy and Technology Development Organization (NEDO) of Japan, Los Alamos National Lab and others to build a Smart Grid here which will include a photovoltaic array on the capped landfill.
Electric Production and Supply
In 1985 the DPU and the Department of Energy formed a power pool through an Electric Coordination Agreement (ECA). This allowed the two entities to blend resources. Los Alamos County's resources under the ECA are as follows:
- San Juan Generating Station Unit 4 (coal, 36 megawatts)
- Laramie River Station entitlement (coal, 10 megawatts)
- El Vado hydroelectric facility (hydropower, 8 megawatts)
- Abiquiu hydroelectric facility (hydropower, 18 megawatts)
- Los Alamos' Western Area Power Administration entitlement (hydropower, 1 megawatt)
- County transmission arrangements
- County purchased power contracts.
DPU also obtains a modicum of power from a local source, the 1 megawatt* photovoltaic array on the East Jemez landfill site. The site was identified, then selected from a joint feasibility study on potential bright field location conducted by Los Alamos National Lab and DPU staff. In a partnership with LANL, and NEDO (the New Energy & Technology Development Organization) a division of Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, 1 MW worth of solar panels are installed on the landfill and producing energy as part of the Los Alamos Smart Grid (www.losalamossmartgrid.info) The DPU continues to explore options to add another 1 MW of photovoltaics to the landfill site.
Future Energy Resources (FER) Committee
In January 2015, the Board of Public Utilities appointed a 7 member citizen committee to analyze future energy for Los Alamos County. Specifically, the Committee was charged with examining and recommending: 1) A definition of carbon neutrality for the County; 2) Future energy generation resources; and 3) Policy toward distributed generation in the community.
The Committee began meeting in February 2015 and prepared and presented a report
to the BPU at the July 15, 2015 Board meeting. The BPU directed the DPU to begin a plan to implement the FER Committee's recommendations.
*Note: Megawatt versus megawatt hour: A watt is a unit of power. One megawatt is a million watts of electricity. A megawatt hour is a million watts that were produced or consumed over an hour period. For example - one megawatt hour is enough electricity to power approximately 350 homes for an hour.
The DPU provides about 25 percent of Los Alamos and White Rock power from renewable resources and we're aiming for more. Through an entitlement with the Western Area Power Administration and the two County-owned hydroelectric facilities DPU provides clean hydroelectric power. Additionally we offer our customers the option to purchase Renewable Energy Credits generated from Los Alamos County's hydroelectric power plant in Abiquiu and its one megawatt solar array on the old landfill off East Jemez Road. These RECs are available through the LA Green program. We also embarked on a joint project with Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization and Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop a demonstration Smart Grid.
Solar power generated by customers can offset utility bill charges for electricity. Several ratepayers have explored the installation of solar photovoltaic arrays at their homes, and the DPU supports these endeavors through Net Metering, and guidance on the safe interconnection of customers' electric generation with the local grid. Learn more here or download the full Residential Solar Power packet.
The DPU, in accordance with Board of Public Utilities' direction, and the 2013 Customer Survey's expressed preference (p.7 1) explores, initiates and executes upon renewable energy projects to steadily decrease the amount of power purchased from conventional coal-fired power sources.
Los Alamos County's electric distribution network provides power to more than 8,500 ratepayers. Departmental priorities for maintenance and enhancements are assessed regularly. While no Utility provider can ever guarantee that power will never be interrupted, the DPU has established a goal for itself to reduce outages to less than the System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) for communities of our size as determined by the American Public Power Association. The APPA index for average, accumulated down time for a year that a customer could expect is 60 minutes. To realize this goal the DPU developed an Electric Reliability Plan (developed in 2011 and updated regularly, most recently in 2014) based off of data collected in the 2006 Condition Assessment and continuing system inspections.
The Electric Reliability Plan
Reducing the frequency, duration, and number of customers impacted by power outages is the primary objective of the dynamic Electric Reliability Plan. One key initiative included in the Electric Reliability Plan is to address trees which may come into contact with overhead lines. DPU has prepared a briefing on Maintaining the Power Line Right-of-Way to keep our customers informed about safe distances between trees and overhead lines. As an example of the dangers, recent wildfires in New Mexico (Thompson Ridge and Las Conchas) were both instigated from tree/power line contact.
Community knowledge and dialogue helps us to keep reliability initiatives prioritized correctly. To this end we publish our monthly power outage report in the Board of Public Utilities agenda documentation which is available to the public. Here's a link to the November 2014 outage report, which is based on the trailing 12 months of reliability performance. It says, in essence, that our average power outage time per capita is less than 60 minutes.
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