Past, Present and Future

A look back in time

On September 14, 1925, the Centralia College opened its doors on the third floor of the Centralia High School Building. They welcomed 15 students, six teachers and did not charge tuition. Fast forward to 1953 when the first college library was opened with 1,256 books in a little white-frame church at the northeast end of the campus. By 1963 with enrollment over 1,000 a new $700,00 library and student center was constructed with seating for 252 and shelf room for 34,000 books. In 1986 Hank Kirk, the newly appointed president of Centralia College took on the job of helping to rebuild the institution, which included construction of a new library, now known as the Hank Kirk Library.

Opportunities for today

In April 2017, the TransAlta Centralia Coal Transition Energy Technology Board added to the history of the college by awarding a grant in the amount of $189,000 to support the construction of a 56kW solar photovoltaic project for the Hank Kirk Library. The renewable electrical energy produced by this solar project will reduce CO2 emissions and will help offset purchased power and lower ongoing energy bills for the next 30-40 years. It’s exciting to see that this local project has now been completed and to recognize the benefits for the students and the community for years to come.

Today, Centralia College expands over several city blocks, offers over 40 academic transfer programs, 24 professional/technical programs as well as extension and on-line courses.  Students who attend Centralia College may be preparing to transfer to a 4-year university, planning to complete a 2-year associate degree, studying to gain a certificate, or just taking a class to increase their knowledge or to gain job skills.  As it grows and changes, Centralia College continues to play an important role in the life of the community. TransAlta has formed a strong partnership with the college through community investment and scholarship programs. A great example of giving back to the communities in which we live and work.

Thinking about tomorrow

This solar project not only supports the Energy Technology Board mission of funding projects in Washington State that benefit clean energy, air quality or environment but supports the College’s energy efficiency goals as well as providing an enhanced learning environment for the students and faculty. Benefits for a great tomorrow.

As part of the historic agreement between TransAlta and the state of Washington to transition the Centralia facility off coal, TransAlta is investing $55 million into the local community and the state of Washington through its coal transition grant boards. Since January 1, 2016 the transition boards have committed approximately $3.7 million in grants to fund renewable energy, weatherization and energy efficiency projects. For more information on the Centralia Coal Transition Boards visit http://cctgrants.com

Coal transition board helps to leverage energy efficiency programs

March 30, 2017

It’s all about the customer

The Lewis County Public Utility District (the “District”) has been awarded a grant from the Centralia Coal Transition Weatherization Board to supplement the energy efficiency programs available to their customers. The grant amount for 2017 is $842,250.00 and will leverage existing programs to provide qualified customers with technology to improve their home efficiency with ductless heat pumps, support K-12 school energy efficiency improvements as well as supplement existing or pending programs to upgrade windows, insulation, lighting, lighting controls and other custom projects offered to District customers.

“Partnering with the Weatherization Board will create local jobs, allow for investment in schools, and help maximize the value and comfort from every bit of energy distributed to customers” says Chris Roden, District Power and Business Services Manager. The bulk of the dollars will be used toward installation of ductless heat pumps within the District’s service territory.

The District is a municipal corporation of the State of Washington, formed by the people of Lewis County to provide electric service. The District maintains an Energy Services department that offers customers a variety of residential, commercial and industrial conservation programs including a free energy audit.

Reducing the financial impact

The District’s Energy Efficiency team offers a free energy audit of customer homes, regardless of whether they qualify for their programs. The audit helps to explain how the home loses energy and where the most impact can be made with weatherization strategies. Once the audit is complete, the customer is given a list of measures they’re eligible for, a list of pre-qualified installers, and information regarding the District loan program.  “The grant dollars will help to leverage the opportunities the District has to offer to improve energy efficiency and weatherization and directly make a positive impact to their customers, whether it be a customer household, school or local business” says Shane Bluhm, Weatherization Board Member and Manager, Maintenance for TransAlta Centralia operations. “One of the goals of the board is to support projects that provide cost effective weatherization solutions that demonstrate an energy cost savings for those living and working in the local community. The plan outlined in the District application meets that goal.”

Fixing the problem

While a professional home energy audit is the best way to determine where your home is losing energy and where you can save, you can conduct your own simple but diligent walk-through and spot many problems in any type of house. Take a walk around the inside and outside of your home to look for problem areas and make a checklist. This list will help prioritize your energy efficiency upgrades and the start for a professional home energy audit to lead you to a possible reduction in your energy bills.

The district has several programs that can help residents lower their power bills through energy efficiency programs and other means. For more information, visit www.lcpud.org.

For more information on the Centralia Coal Transition Funding Boards visit http://cctgrants.com

Coal transition board supports Reliable Enterprises’ expansion

March 2, 2017

Plans to upgrade a 1993 building

The Centralia Coal Transition Grants Weatherization Board has approved a grant submitted on behalf of Reliable Enterprises to support their efforts to become more effective and efficient. The expansion project will convert 5000 square feet of empty warehouse space into offices to accommodate growth in the organization’s programs and to consolidate management into one location.

“This grant greatly supplements the remodel, expansion and consolidation of Reliable Enterprises staff at an existing location that will in turn free up another building to directly serve children and families” says Brett Mitchell, Executive Director of Reliable Enterprises. “This organization started back in 1977 by a group of local citizens who were concerned about the welfare of adults with disabilities and set up shop in a garage. Over the years the organization has seen many changes to get where they are today, serving children of all ages, providing affordable house, providing employment opportunities and having the ability to provide a top notch preschool education to all children living in Lewis County. Being able to put our management personnel in one location will help us to facilitate quicker and to be more efficient and collaborative in our decision making.”

Partnering with the community

 The grant amount of $84,112.52 will be used to update the 1993 building with energy efficient windows, insulated steel doors, new exterior insulation, LED lighting fixtures and a new 95% high efficiency gas forced air furnace with heat pumps. “One of our goals as a board is to fund projects that have partnering opportunities with the community and agencies that provide weatherization programs to expand the impact of the program” says Debbie Campbell, chair of the Weatherization Board. “The board’s decision to fund this project does just that by building on their ability to increase their services to their clients. Congratulations to Brett and his team for thinking outside the box to apply for and utilize the Weatherization Board funds to improve efficiency in their non-profit organization.”

Supporting positive changes for the community and environment

“The grant awarded to Reliable Enterprises creates a positive impact in the community and the environment” says Mike Lydon, Weatherization Board member and Manager, Mine & Plant Outside Resources for TransAlta Centralia. “Reliable Enterprises provides valuable services in our community and being able to help support their growing efforts and lower their energy expenses with the new efficient fixtures aligns with our board goals.”

The improvement project is underway and expected to be completed before June, 2017.

The Weatherization Board was formed as part of the 2011 agreement to transition the Centralia operations away from coal-fired generation. The board will have the opportunity to invest $10M to fund energy efficiency and weatherization projects for the residents, employees, businesses, non-profit organizations and local governments within Lewis County and South Thurston County, Washington.

For more information on the Centralia Coal Transition Funding Boards visit http://cctgrants.com

 

 

 

Coal transition board supports bus without an engine

January 30, 2017

A new chapter to zero emissions

Each year a local business known as Twin Transit provides approximately 230,000 passengers with bus transportation to medical appointments, school, shopping, employment and social services. This transportation access is vital to the local community as it provides safe and accessible public transportation services in and around the cities of Centralia and Chehalis. “When the Energy Technology Board members received an application from Twin Transit to support an electric bus charging station the members were very much interested in discussing the project” says Mike Gudeman, a member of the Energy Technology Board and a Control & Computer Technician at the TransAlta Centralia plant. “Introducing a 100% electric bus to its fleet will save on fuel expenses and provide a positive impact on the environment and community.”

No diesel or gas required

The Centralia Coal Transition Energy Technology Board approved a grant in the amount of $37,810.00 to support the installation of three-phase 440-volt electrical service which is needed for the installation of a 40kW charging station for 100% electric bus. This bus does not have an engine that requires diesel or gasoline fuel but rather operates each day on a single electric charge to its collection of battery cells. This zero-emission vehicle will save Twin Transit in fuel expenses and reduce carbon emissions.

Good things take time and planning

Now that the charging station has arrived, local contractors will begin work to install the electrical service so when the bus arrives the charging station will be fully operational. The expectation is that daily bus services will begin in February, 2017. Portions of the bus will be shipped from around the world with the final assembly taking place in California. Once assembled, the bus will be transported to Centralia where a little more work will need to be done. It will be an exciting day when the bus is available to the local community. Twin Transit is hoping this is just the beginning of a new chapter that provides safe and reliable transportation for the community.

The Energy Technology Board was formed as part of the 2011 agreement to transition the Centralia operations away from coal-fired generation. The board will have the opportunity to invest $25M in projects that create considerable energy, air quality, haze or other environmental benefits for the state of Washington.

For more information on the Centralia Coal Transition Funding Boards visit http://cctgrants.com

 

Just $5.00 a month buys 30 lunches for the homeless

September 26, 2016

A way to say Thank You

Every community faces challenges from poverty, to providing support and assistance to the very young, to the very old. This is the reason TransAlta chooses to partner with United Way. Helping others is a core value for the Centralia team and teaming up with United Way is a way to energize community programs that help to address the needs in our community. “At TransAlta, we believe it is important to support the communities in which we live and work,” says Bob Nelson, managing director, US Coal. “For the Centralia team, we have seen our community step up, responding to difficult circumstances and showing strong support for us over the past several years. Teaming up with United Way is one way that we can say “thank you” to the community for their generous support.”

United Way has done their homework

“Many families in our community are truly less fortunate and at risk, whether its financial problems, abuse, educational or health issues,” says Sandy Yanish, Centralia site United Way Campaign coordinator and United Way Board member. This year United Way of Lewis County is putting a focus on breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty and ALICE supports that direction. No, ALICE is not a person, but an acronym which stands for Asset, Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE represents people who are in jobs that are needed but don’t always pay enough to afford the basics of housing, food, child care, health care and transportation. ALICE is men and women of all ages and backgrounds. Did you know that according to research conducted in Lewis County 18 percent of residents live below the poverty threshold, but an additional 26 percent live just above the poverty threshold and are unable to consistently afford the basic necessities? In reality, 44 percent of Lewis County residents are barely making ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck to survive, not thrive. “There is not a better time than now to support United Way,” says Sandy. “For the Centralia team, I know that the understanding is already in place as employees have demonstrated their support by donating their time and dollars to the annual campaign for many years.”

Helping others. Changing lives.

Partnering with our community through United Way of Lewis County has been an integral value at TransAlta Centralia since 2000. And caring for those less fortunate is a trait possessed by our employees. Last week, we came together as a team to kick off our campaign and over the next month employees will have an opportunity to not only make individual contributions to United Way but have some fun bidding against each other on silent auction items, joining in 50/50 raffles and other fundraising events. Together we can all make a big impact in helping our community.

Values power our people and TransAlta

Great companies are built by great people.

Since 1911, we’ve supplied the electric power that has made progress and innovation possible in Alberta — and beyond.

TransAlta was built by people with great pride in the product we deliver and with the commitment in being a safe and responsible operator and community partner.

Moving into the future, we will maintain our century-old focus on being a valued neighbour, a trusted company with the highest standards of integrity and a key member of the communities where we work and live.

It is the power of our values that connects us as a team, and that keeps us connected to the needs of communities, business and people. When our behavior reflects our values, we honor our 105 year heritage of generating reliable, responsible and affordable electricity.

Our values are grounded in accountability, integrity, sustainability, safety and people; which create a strong corporate culture and allow all of our people to work on a common ground and understanding.

These values are at the heart of our success.

Our People. Our Values

Innovation.

TransAlta has been an industry leader for 100 years; and will lead for 100 more. Through hard work and creativity, we will stay competitive. We will pioneer innovative ways to deliver reliable, economic and greener electricity to customers for years to come.

Respect.

We listen, we are open, we value other’s perspectives and we treat all equally. In our words and actions, we place a high priority on respect in our workplace and our working relations.

Loyalty.

We are in this together. We are dedicated to achieving our goals through loyalty to our colleagues, to our customers and to our company.

Accountability.

You can hold us to our word. We are confident and empowered to make decisions that lead our company forward. Our personal commitment is to do what we say we will do.

Integrity.

We act at all times with honesty, fairness and transparency. Integrity is the foundation of our business.

Safety.

We are committed to the health and safety of our people and those with whom we work. Ensuring our facilities are designed and operated with this in mind is a principle that is important to us. Everyone who touches our business — employee, contractor, service provider — must go home safely. That’s just what we do.

Leadership.

We will lead a clean energy future and strive to enhance the quality of life in communities and regions we serve.

 

Supporting our communities through coal transition

June 2, 2016

A look back in time

Back in the 1930s the Fox Theatre came to life in Centralia, Washington. This grand old single screen theatre provided movie entertainment until the 1990s when the doors closed. Fast forward to 2000 when the City of Centralia purchased the building and began the search for a buyer to redevelop the property. Keeping in mind the historical nature of the building, the city included a mandate that any sale would include conditions that the space be used as a convention center, that the outside of the venue be restored to its original condition (including the marquee) and that community events may be held in the center. Fast forward to 2008, the formation of Historic Fox Theatre Restorations (“HFTR”), a local non-profit organization who was up to the daunting, but exciting task to undertake the restoration. Finally fast forward to June 2, 2016 the date the Centralia Coal Transition Weatherization Board awarded a grant in the amount of $383,843.75 to the restoration project to replace the antiquated furnace with a new HV/AC system.

“One of the missions of the Weatherization Board is to provide funding for projects that improve energy efficiency for non-profit organizations”, says Debbie Campbell, Chair. “As a board we also consider how a project partners with Lewis and South Thurston County. HFTR has raised approximately $616K in donations from local patrons and businesses and approximately $200K in the form of various grants. This grant meets our goals and the board members are excited to see the project move forward.”

Out with the old, in with the new

As part of the comprehensive restoration of the theatre, HFTR included replacement of the furnace with a new and efficient heating and cooling system in the plan. The furnace dates back to 1930s, a time when coal provided the means to run the furnace. Since the early days the furnace was converted from coal to oil and from oil to gas. “The furnace is inadequate for the job of heating the building and on a hot day you can forget about sitting in a cool environment”, says Scott White, President of HFTR. “In order to restore the theatre to serve as a major regional entertainment venue, the HV/AC system needs to be completely upgraded. This upgrade, in coordination with a roof replacement will restore the theatre to a fully operational event center that will host an array of theatre, music and film events intended to bring in up to 1,000 people per event. HFTR is very excited to be awarded a grant from the Weatherization Board. Securing this funding allows the work to begin on schedule.” The theatre doors will be closed beginning June 13 and HFTR is expecting to be back in business on August 27.

Project provides an economic boost

Not only did the Weatherization Board find that this project is weatherization related but found that having the theatre up and running in a structurally sound building with a comfortable environment would lead to boosting the local Lewis County community. “The mission of the Weatherization Board is to support energy efficiency and weatherization projects in Lewis and South Thurston counties, says Mickey Dreher, TransAlta representative board member. “We have reviewed a number of applications submitted to the Board and initially I had some reservations with the Fox Theatre application.  While the application itself satisfied all requirements, I was not familiar with Fox Theatre and was not convinced that this project would be the best use of the funds.  After touring the theatre and meeting with Scott White, I was able to see how the grant would improve energy efficiency and I also gained an appreciation for the many benefits that this restoration project will have on the local community for years to come.”

For more information on the Centralia Coal Transition Funding Boards visit http://cctgrants.com

 

 

 

 

Forest Management at TransAlta

May 4, 2016

Tree CUTTING has positive environmental consequences

In the summer of 2015, forest harvesting took place at several locations on the TransAlta Centralia properties, primarily on lands not previously disturbed by mining. We harvested these particular units using the “clearcutting” process to remove all trees, rather than selective logging where only a few select trees are cut from a given area.

“This process is the final stage of forest management generating raw logs that make up the timber used to build the houses we all live in” says Tim LeDuc, specialist, mine environmental at the Centralia site.

We clear-cut because this process has many benefits; ecological as well as economical. A mature forest with a full canopy creates a situation where there is little or no sunlight reaching the forest floor, making it hard for vegetation to exist on the floor.  By removing the trees, the forest cycle starts again, opening the area up to sunlight and rainwater, allowing an abundant array of plants to flourish and providing food and shelter to a wide variety of wildlife species.

“All logging practices are conducted under the rules and regulations as spelled out in a specific Forest Practices Application (FPA) for each site, says Tim.  “The FPA is regulated by the Washington Department of Natural Resources which focuses on a balance between the environmental impacts and the rights of the landowner.”

Tree PLANTING has positive environmental consequences

With its typically mild temperatures and abundant rainfall, the Pacific Northwest is one of the premier tree growing regions in the world, especially for Douglas fir.  This year’s annual tree planting season saw a total of 130,000 Douglas fir seedlings planted, individually by hand in less than a week, at the Centralia mine site with approximately 35,000 being planted where the clearcutting work had been done, and the remaining 95,000 at several different newly reclaimed areas throughout the mine.

“Douglas fir is the main species of trees planted at the Centralia site, along with red alder as a secondary species” says Tim.  “Both of these species are typical of what you would see if driving by a wooded area in this region.  There are a small number of other species such as cedar and ash planted in very specific areas but given that a new crop of Douglas fir trees will be ready to harvest in 40-50 years, economically they make the most sense.”

Logging and the subsequent reforestation of an area needs to be planned well in advance as the seedlings need to be two years old at the time they are planted.  This means that a contract with a seedling grower needs to be in place long before the logging harvest ever occurs.

TRANSALTA makes positive impact on the environment

As the Centralia mine moves through the phases of reclamation, the team maintains a focus on long-term reclamation plans to support a wide variety of land uses, including agriculture, industrial, woodlands, wildlife habitat and wetlands. Thanks to the good work of the Centralia mine team and the Ramirez Reforestation crew, 130,000 trees were added to the reclamation areas of the Centralia mine site, bringing the total number of trees planted since 1991 to approximately 1.8 million.

First Coal Transition Grant is announced

March 29, 2016

TransAlta’s commitment  

Back in 2011 when TransAlta and the state of Washington entered into an agreement to transition the Centralia facility off coal a commitment was made to invest $55M into the local community and the state of Washington. The agreement was to pay $55M into three separate boards – the Weatherization Board ($10M), the Economic and Community Development Board ($20M) and the Energy Technology Board ($25M). The boards were formed back in 2012 and have been meeting and researching the needs of the community anxiously anticipating the day they could start making investments.

“The agreement did not require the boards to spend dollars unless TransAlta fulfilled long term contracts totaling 500MW”, said Bob Nelson, managing director of US coal. “The TransAlta team worked hard for over three years to secure additional contracts for the Centralia facility but due in large part to the low-price environment we did not reach that goal. In July, 2015 the company made a decision to contribute the full $55M investment recognizing the need for our employees, community and state to receive funding benefits as a result of the Centralia coal transition plan and authorized a spend date to begin December 31, 2015.”

The Weatherization Board finds a perfect fit

The intent of the Weatherization Board is to provide funding of projects to improve energy efficiency and weatherization within Lewis County and South Thurston County. “As a board we spent a great deal of time discussing the mission of the Weatherization Board, the goals we hope to achieve and becoming better educated on the needs of the local community,” said Jeff Yanish, Weatherization Board member and TransAlta employee. “We’ve met with various organizations to learn about weatherization programs and find there is a definite need to support local families. The board agreed that the application submitted by the Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties (“CAC”) fits our key criteria for funding when evaluating projects.”

CAC has provided weatherization services to Lewis County residents since 1976. It has grown from a simple installation of attic insulation and plastic storm windows to what they now call a “whole” house approach to energy conservation to determine how residents can maximize energy savings and minimizing the costs. The funding for the project will expand the current weatherization efforts in Lewis and South Thurston Counties to support a range of weatherization services to qualified households free of charge.”

A new partnership is formed

“Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason & Thurston Counties is excited to partner with the Weatherization Board to provide high quality weatherization services to the eligible families in our local community” said John Walsh, CEO of CAC. “The weatherization program provides conservation measures to residential homes to improve heating and energy-saving efficiencies while creating a safer and healthier home for the occupants. Ultimately, the program improves and preserves the affordable housing stock in our communities. We are looking forward to the launching of this valuable project.”

“As a member of the Weatherization Board I am excited to move forward with this first grant disbursement from TransAlta’s $55M commitment to the community, said Debbie Campbell, Chair of the Weatherization Board and Executive Director, United Way of Lewis County.  “The board looks forward to working with the team at Community Action Council as they work with households in Lewis and South Thurston Counties to improve energy efficiency and weatherization in their homes.”

The Weatherization Board has received a total of 14 applications to date. After careful thought and deliberation the board has made decisions on seven of the projects. “It’s not an easy job to make these decisions as the applicants are all working toward worthy projects. The board came up with a clear mission and we recognize the importance of how these transition dollars should be used,” said Lori Schmitt, Weatherization Board member and TransAlta employee. “It will be exciting to see the positive impact the funding dollars can make.”

For more information on the Centralia Coal Transition Funding Boards visit http://cctgrants.com

 

Industrial Park at TransAlta

February 17, 2016

Supporting Economic Growth

The vision for the Industrial Park at TransAlta began back in 2006 when TransAlta agreed to donate approximately 1,000 acres of land around Centralia to the community for creation of a regional industrial park. The proposed development areas have established infrastructure of power, rail, gas, telecommunications, and secondary roads and water that is advantageous for rapid and environmentally responsible growth. This donation brought together two experienced organizations, TransAlta and the Lewis County Economic Development Council in Washington to open dialogue and public consultation throughout the development of the Industrial Park.

A partnership is formed

Over the years, TransAlta and the Lewis County Economic Development Council’s newly formed corporation, Industrial Park at TransAlta (IPAT) focused on identifying the land to be donated and an agreed upon approach to the re-permitting of these lands to support development.

As the land donated had to be reclaimed prior to TransAlta releasing the parcels, land donations were made in various stages. The transfer of approximately 840 of the 1,000 acres has been completed and the IPAT team is working diligently on the marketing and looking forward to the time when they can negotiate contracts with new businesses.

“TransAlta has provided a strong supporting role in the development of the IPAT sites” says Tony Briggs, Mine and Plant Outside Resources Manager. “As an IPAT board member, I have the unique opportunity to help blend the goals and vision of the board with TransAlta’s reclamation plans so that they remain compatible and we both are compliant with our mining and reclamation permits. “

Work is underway

“IPAT is a community based non-profit group that is focused on job creation” says Allyn Roe, Chief Operating Officer of IPAT. “The board of directors is made up of local leaders that have the vision and commitment to provide job investment opportunities for our future. Our community is developing this park to serve the unmet need for large acreage, large volume water, major electricity, and rail access customers.”

IPAT is currently in the middle of a $4M infrastructure project that extends industrial water, potable water, sewer services, and an access road to Site 1.  Site 1 is a 150-acre former mining pit which was mined and fully reclaimed in the 1970’s. In addition to the utilities and roadway, grading work is being accomplished to level a thirty-acre speculative development pad by moving 250,000 yards of reclaimed soil.

The IPAT goal is to recruit companies that have capital-intensive manufactures that need workers and pay high wages. There could be an opportunity to attract new businesses that could create synergies with TransAlta’s existing operations like recyclable byproducts created from the coal-fired plant are used for cement or concrete manufacturing which is currently transported offsite to vendors. Look for more on the IPAT progress in the months ahead.