Northwest Hydropower News

FWEE Hydropower STEM Academy connects students to careers

The Foundation for Water and Energy Education (FWEE) launched the first FWEE Hydropower and STEM Career Academy at Rocky Reach Dam in Wenatchee the week of June 20—24.

Students explored the physics of producing and distributing hydropower while meeting and doing hands-on activities with mechanical and electrical engineers, plant mechanics and operators, divers, and linemen. As the week unfolded, professionals and educators gave insights into career options and educational pathways to connect them with these careers.

“It’s part of a ‘grow your own’ strategy,” said Andy Dunau, Executive Director of FWEE. Nationally, one-third of utility employees will retire in the next 10 years.

Particularly in rural areas, finding qualified engineers and others with math, science and technology skills is a huge challenge. Utilities find that people who grow up in the area are much more likely to not only apply for these type of jobs, but stay. Said Dunau, “We’re talking very good paying jobs that allow you to stay in the community.”

As with any “first,” there was much trepidation as the week with 16 students. But as hands-on STEM activities were combined with tours and career talks and academic counseling, the students became lit up. By graduation, they were a buzz.

Said one student, “I am interested in electrical engineering because this academy helped me see a path. The apprenticeship and other information was insanely helpful. I really have an understanding that I didn’t know existed.”

FWEE intends to offer the Academy next year as well.

Read the Wenatchee World article here

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Lights go on for student problem solvers

By Christine Pratt
Wenatchee World

Bayley Babcock, 15, Wenatchee, left, celebrates with Zachary Vidrine, 16, Moses Lake, after successfully closing a wire circuit that had been frustrating them while they constructed an electric generator Friday. They were taking part in a hydroelectric power academy class at Rocky Reach Dam last week.

Bayley Babcock, 15, Wenatchee, left, celebrates with Zachary Vidrine, 16, Moses Lake, after successfully closing a wire circuit that had been frustrating them while they constructed an electric generator Friday. They were taking part in a hydroelectric power academy class at Rocky Reach Dam last week. (World photo/Don Seabrook)

WENATCHEE — How do you generate electricity with a transparent container, eight plastic spoons, four coils of copper wire, four coin-like magnets, a blank CD, a handful of other plastic doodads — and tap water?

Sixteen high school students from around the region did their best to figure that out Friday — with varying degrees of success — during the first-ever Hydropower and STEM Career Academy at Rocky Reach Dam.

With help from instructors Clyde Carpenter and Jack Horne, the students got their units’ tiny lights to illuminate when tap water put their improvised rotors and stators to work.

But not without considerable, mostly relevant banter among themselves.

“You’re doing it wrong, dude!”

“Don’t burn yourself!”

“It’s contin-U-ity”

“I said contin-U-ity”

“You said contin-DU-ity”

“That’s because you’re deaf.”

“It’s been really fun to see the kids think this stuff through,” said Andy Dunau, executive director of the Spokane-based Foundation for Water & Energy Education (FWEE). He observed the furrowed young brows, as the students worked to assemble their complex turbine/generator units.

The dam’s own units were spinning and generating electricity in much the same way on the nearby powerhouse floor under the watchful eyes of the Chelan County PUD’s professional engineers, electricians and operators.

That was the whole idea of last week’s academy — to give science, technology, engineering and math-minded students (STEM) a hands-on look at how hydropower works and hear from the professionals, themselves, about the variety of career opportunities available at a public utility.

“For these kids, it’s about making connections they normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to make,” Dunau said. “They can see careers they didn’t even know existed.”

Organizers for both FWEE and the PUD distributed application packets to high schools all over Chelan County.

Details and application instructions were also posted on the FWEE website, which yielded student applicants from Moses Lake and two from Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

A week’s course work culminated Friday with their generating unit project. The students earned one college credit good at Wenatchee Valley College and potentially other colleges elsewhere, organizers said.

The academy wasn’t “FWEE,” as the acronym implies. It actually cost $175 per student. But scholarships made it open to everyone, regardless of ability to pay.

“The cost was just to make sure the commitment was there,” Dunau said. “There is no kid who wants to be here who can’t be here.”

Based on the success of this year’s first academy, organizers have already decided to make it an annual event, he said. The students seemed to enjoy it.

“I thought it would be interesting to see all the career paths and look at what I’d like to do in the future,” said Zachary Vidrine, 16, of Moses Lake, while he and his teammate Bayley Babcock, 15, of Wenatchee adjusted the wiring of their generating unit.

“Engineering, science and math are strengths of mine,” added Babcock.

Alas, only one of the 16 students was female — 16-year-old Katie Keane of East Wenatchee.

“In male-dominated industries, girls get scared to challenge the social norm for what an engineer should be,” she said, adding that growing up in a house with a single mom gave her the courage to not be afraid.

She and her partner Isaac Janney, 16, of East Wenatchee, were the second-fastest team to get their generator unit working with water power.

Jaxon Ayling, 15, of Chelan, and Tyson Seidensticker, 15 of Cashmere, were the first.

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Plans for big Grand Coulee hydro project detailed

By Roger Lucas
The Star

Chamber of commerce members Thursday heard details on a proposed project that could put huge conduits for water under the community to produce more power and create jobs.

The proposed Banks Lake hydroelectric pumped storage project could be operational by the year 2025.

Tim Culbertson, and a team from Columbia Basin Hydropower, outlined a project that could require some 2,600 workers during construction and as many as 100 permanent employees. Read more

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Chelan PUD to Modernize Original Units at Rock Island Dam

By Kimberlee Craig

Chelan County PUD commissioners Monday, decided to invest about $60 million to modernize the four original generating units at Rock Island Dam. The decision came after the board reviewed the results of intensive staff analysis and concluded the project meets the strategic objective of investing in long-term assets that provide value to customer-owners.

The benefits would include reliable operation of the units for another 50 years; an expected 12-percent rate of return; and more flexibility in hydro operations, said Brett Bickford, Engineering and Project Management director. The project also has environmental and fish protection benefits and aligns with PUD values of safety, stewardship, trustworthiness and operational excellence, Bickford said.  Read more

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Waterpower Hydro Basics Course lights up new hires

HydroCourseWhat better place for new hires and experienced professionals moving into the hydropower industry to learn “the business” than at the world’s largest hydro conference?

The Waterpower Hydro Basics Course is taking place July 25 – 26 at the HydroVision Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The full conference is July 26-29 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Click here for detailed course information and registration.

This intensive, highly practical course is designed specifically for people new to hydro to quickly gain the industry background they need, and to help persons with limited hydro experience expand their knowledge.

Taught by industry experts from hydropower producers across the country, course work immerses participants in all aspects of the industry. For instance, the physics of waterpower, the basics of electricity and distribution, plant operations, environmental stewardship, navigating the regulatory environment, and communicating hydro’s value.

Randy Stearnes, FWEE’s Board President and Tacoma Public Utilities Community Relations Officer, has been a Hydro Basics Course instructor for several years. “The Hydro Basics lesson plans can help a person new to the hydro industry better understand the work done for the generation of electricity and the successful management of fish, wildlife and recreational resources,” he said.

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Judge rejects feds’ Columbia River salmon plan, calls for a rewrite

By Kelly House
Oregonian

A federal judge has ruled for the fourth time that the U.S. government’s plan to recover salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River basin fails to address the federal hydropower dams’ effect on fish.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon on Wednesday gave the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration two years to write a new plan that does more to protect fish. Read more

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Spokane Tribe will study salmon habitat above Grand Coulee Dam

By Becky Kramer
Spokesman Review

The Spokane Tribe of Indians has received $200,000 to study whether salmon would thrive above Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council approved the funding last week for the habitat assessment. The work is part of an investigation into whether salmon and steelhead could be successfully reintroduced above the tall dams, which were built without fish ladders decades ago. Read More

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Salmon habitat preparation delayed for Yale Reservoir

By Al Thomas
The Columbian

State and federal fishery officials, along with PacifiCorp, have agreed to delay the preparation of Yale Reservoir and its tributaries for the reintroduction of salmon and steelhead.

PacifiCorp’s federal license to operate Merwin, Yale and Swift hydroelectric dams on the North Fork of the Lewis River calls for the utility to have a downstream fish passage facility at Yale Dam operational by June 26, 2021.

The settlement agreement between PacifiCorp and the fish agencies, Forest Service, Indian tribes and local governments also requires a “habitat preparation plan’’ beginning five years prior to fish passage. Read more

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Hydropower STEM Career Academy in June at Rocky Reach Dam

femalehardhatStudents who will be entering grades 9 through 12 are invited to register for a week of fun and learning June 20 to 24 at the FWEE Hydropower and STEM Career Academy at Rocky Reach Dam.

The academy, which is sponsored by the Foundation for Water and Energy Education (FWEE) and host partner Chelan County PUD, focuses on hydropower careers that require science, technology, engineering and mathematic skills (STEM).

“Nationally, one-third of utility employees will retire in the next 10 years,” said Debbie Gallaher, Rocky Reach Visitor Center Supervisor, “We’d like to show local students the high quality, good paying jobs that could be part of their future.”

Those attending the academy will learn how hydropower is generated at dams on the Columbia River and distributed throughout the region. During the academy, hydropower professionals, including engineers, divers, plant mechanics, operators and linemen, will conduct tours and hands-on activities to highlight the importance of their work. Students will also receive instruction and advice on how to prepare for a career in the exciting field of power generation and delivery.

These important and well-paying STEM careers are available throughout the region.  High school counselors, college advisors and mentors will be on hand to identify the prerequisites and academic achievement needed to pursue these and related careers.

The academy is open to students from a four-county area: Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan, who are entering grades 9 through 12 (space permitting).  Registration for the five-day event is $175 per student with some scholarships available. For those traveling more than one hour, a host family option is being made available.

For more information and the application, go to www.fwee.org.  Applications need to be postmarked no later than May 3, 2016.

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States, federal agencies will seek removal of Klamath dams

By Jonathan J. Cooper, Associated Press
Seattle Times

Oregon, California, the federal government and others have agreed to go forward with a plan to remove four hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest without approval from a reluctant Congress, a spokesman for dam owner PacifiCorp said Monday.

The dam removal is part of an announcement planned Wednesday in Klamath, Calif., by the governors of both states and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Read more

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