Energy Northwest: Proudly advancing Washington’s clean energy future

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An electric vehicle plugs in at the charging station at Caboose Park in Dayton, Wash. Energy Northwest led the installation efforts of the new charging station with support from a grant from Pacific Power. The station consists of one Level 2 charger and one Level 3 “DC Fast” charger.

Courtesy Energy Northwest

With a 100% carbon-free energy portfolio, Energy Northwest is positioned to help lead Washington in developing new clean energy-generating resources and transportation electrification projects. The 2019 passage of the Clean Energy Transformation Act provided public power with a tremendous opportunity to help Washington meet its climate goals while maintaining a reliable and affordable electric grid.

I have been impressed by the collaboration, planning and problem-solving already underway in the public power community to achieve our shared goal of providing customers with clean, low-cost, reliable power.

To accomplish these goals and develop a diverse mix of energy resources, we brought the Horn Rapids Solar, Storage & Training project online last fall. The 20-acre project north of Richland provides 4 megawatts of direct-current electricity — enough to power about 600 homes – paired with a 1 MW battery storage system that can power about 150 homes for four hours.

The facility is also a training ground for solar and battery storage technicians. Following completion of this project, we began moving forward with development of a new 300-acre solar project.

In the transportation sector, EN and our partners installed direct current fast-charging stations in Central Washington to alleviate the “charging gap” or long distances between charging stations that made cross-state electric vehicle travel difficult. Our success was recognized in December with a $1.15 million grant from the Washington state Department of Commerce’s Clean Energy Fund to install a network of EV charging stations along the White Pass Scenic Byway.

Our nuclear energy facility, Columbia Generating Station, was recently recognized by our industry peers as being a top-performing plant in the country – a testament to the tremendous work the EN team has done over the past decade and our commitment to safety and operating excellence.

Columbia also set its fourth highest generation record in 2020. With economic dispatch included, Columbia achieved an all-time record setting 9.9 million megawatt-hours of carbon-free electricity for the northwest power grid.

The next few months will be busy as we conduct Columbia’s 25th refueling outage (R-25). Every two years, we take the plant offline for several weeks to replace a third of our fuel and perform important maintenance. While always a major undertaking, this year is complicated by COVID-19. In preparation for R-25, we developed extensive plans and procedures to ensure our workforce is safe and healthy and able to complete this vital work on schedule.

I am also proud of EN’s leading role in bringing new nuclear energy facilities to Washington state. In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy selected TerraPower-GE Hitachi and X-energy for two awards through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program.

Energy Northwest is a utility partner on both awards, and we are working with the awardees to develop these projects, which come with a 50-50 federal cost share that could provide Eastern Washington with billions in economic activity, job creation and invaluable carbon-free electricity well into the future. I have always believed that nuclear energy will be integral to a carbon-free electric grid, and these projects are a most promising start.

After 40 years in the nuclear energy industry, I plan to retire in June. This was a difficult decision made in consultation with my family. The last decade with EN has been the most fulfilling of my career, and it’s been the honor of my life to lead such an exemplary organization.

I am extremely proud of the EN team’s accomplishments, especially during these times made more difficult by the pandemic. However, as we’ve learned over the past year, no matter what the challenge, the EN team is up to the task.