Powerlines Blog Seattle City Light

Seattle City Light Announces $1 Million of Green Up Grants

Thanks to the generous contributions of Seattle City Light customers, seven local organizations will receive Green Up grants totaling nearly $1 million to support renewable energy projects and education. The seven organizations will use the grants to help install solar panels at 14 public school, affordable housing, and community-based locations.

“Over 13,000 generous community members are investing in a clean, sustainable energy future by sending a few dollars each month to purchase renewable energy credits through our Green Up program,” said City Light Customer Energy Solutions Director Craig Smith. “City Light is proud to be the steward of this grant and part of the community partnership that will benefit our schools, affordable housing, parks, and hospitals.”

Grant recipients are:

  • Seattle Public Schools – $150,000 for solar installations at Bailey Gatzert Elementary, Ballard High School, Denny International Middle School, South Shore K-8 School, Hazel Wolf K-8 ESTEM School and Arbor Heights Elementary
  • King County Parks — $119,014 for a solar installation at the Steve Cox Community Center
  • Seattle Parks — $50,000 for a solar installation at the Brig at Magnuson Park
  • Seattle Colleges — $200,000 for a solar installation at Seattle Central College
  • Harborview Medical Center — $50,000 for a solar installation at the hospital
  • Capitol Hill Housing – three grants totaling $225,000 for solar installations at three affordable housing complexes – the Elizabeth James House, Ponderosa Apartments and El Nor Apartments
  • Pacific Science Center — $164,851 for a solar installation at the center

“We will soon be able to power the White Center community center and the adjacent basketball court using only clean, renewable energy,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said. “Our partnership with Seattle City Light will accelerate the work we are doing to transform Steve Cox Memorial Park into a model for sustainable operations.”

“Seattle Public Schools’ goal is to optimize energy conservation through cost-effective practices. We are grateful for the Seattle community members who contribute to Green Up and to Seattle City Light for this grant of $150,000. It will help us fund an energy efficiency project utilizing solar technology at six of our schools,” said Flip Herndon, Seattle Public Schools’ associate superintendent of capital, facilities and operations.

“We are thrilled to receive a Green Up grant award from Seattle City Light. With this award, Pacific Science Center will be installing a rooftop solar panel array, not only to make our campus more energy efficient, but also to create hands-on guest experiences focused on renewable energy,” said Chris Wheaton, Chief Operating & Financial Officer of Pacific Science Center. “We’re looking forward to introducing our community to a real-word application of clean tech innovation, enabled by Seattle City Light’s generosity and leadership.”

“This grant will allow us reduce the operating costs of our buildings and serve more low-income families and individuals. It’s a great way to keep renewable energy credits local and ensures that the beneficiaries are local residents who need it the most,” said McCaela Daffern, Capitol Hill Housing sustainability manager.


Green Up is a voluntary program that allows City Light customers to support renewable energy development and education by donating an extra $3 or more on their utility bills. Green Up funds are used to purchase renewable energy credits, and remaining contributions are used to pay for projects such as Sonic Bloom at Pacific Science Center and solar installations on three residence halls at the University of Washington. The program has expanded to provide direct grant funding for solar or other renewable energy installations and education projects in Seattle City Light’s service territory. To learn more, visit: http://www.seattle.gov/light/Greenup/

Interested in contributing to Green Up? Sign up here: http://www.seattle.gov/light/Greenup/for-home.asp 

Solar and innovation grants of up to $200,000 were awarded for renewable energy installations by public, nonprofit or educational organizations with a system size of less than 100 kilowatts. Projects must be connected to City Light’s distribution grid and equipped with a monitoring system. Education grants of up to $5,000 support projects that have a focus on educating students about renewable energy, such as curriculum development, research, extracurricular activities, supplies and teacher training.


Seattle City (spot)Light: Bear Holter

Machinist Crew Chief Bear Holter has worked at City Light for 25 years. Currently, he oversees the hydroelectric maintenance at Boundary Dam. “We handle the mechanical maintenance at the powerhouse,” Bear explained. “Things like turbine overhauls and other mechanical work. We also maintain our mobile equipment and take care of the dam’s spillgates. There’s so much we do—we’re the jack of all trades.”

Born in Metaline Falls, Bear served in the Navy for four years doing welding, construction and working on submarines. His first position at City Light was a machinist specialist at Skagit. When he learned of an opening at Boundary, he applied for the transfer. “I always knew I wanted to get back to Boundary,” he said. “I remember the dam being built. My grandparents took me to it when I was a kid so it means a lot to me.”

Bear lives in Sullivan Lake with his wife, Lynn—their home sits behind the house in which Bear was raised! They’re active members of the community, including their alma mater, Selkirk High School, where Bear does announcing for sporting events. “I’m the voice of the Rangers!” he exclaimed. In this week’s (spot)Light, Bear talks about his career inspiration and life at Boundary.

Bear and Lynn at Frank Slide in British Columbia

“There are six of us on my team. One of the biggest jobs we’ve done was rebuilding a generator. We took the whole thing apart, piece by piece. We got it cleared down to the runner, which is the water wheel or the big thing that spins when the water hits it. When that comes out, we install seal rings to hold it in place. All the bearings get done. The rotor comes out. There are many steps, and, in the end, we put it all back together. It’s a big job that takes about one year to complete. It’s quite a deal.”

“I loved working at Skagit. My daughters grew up there, but I knew the only way I could get back to Boundary was as a machinist. I wanted to be an iron worker for the City, but the only opening at Boundary was taken by my brother, Randy! He was five years ahead of me so I knew I wouldn’t get to Boundary as an ironworker. I took up the machinist trade and went through the apprenticeship. In fact, I was the first City Light apprentice through the machinist program. When I learned of the machinist opening at Boundary, I went for it and, along the way, I became crew chief.”

“I wanted to get in the utility business because my dad was a lifer at Box Canyon Dam which is here locally. He spent 32 years there. It was good to our family so I figured it was a good line of work to get into. You can say he was my early source of inspiration. He also worked ten years here at Boundary.  Randy and I followed in his footsteps. In fact, Randy just celebrated 30 years with City Light.”

“Metaline Falls was a great place to grow up and I’m glad I returned. It has fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation that I enjoy. Up at the dam, we’re a tight-knit group. We work hard together and it’s not uncommon to see each other around town. I just love that small-town feel.”

City Light Completes Repairs on Newhalem Penstock

A Seattle City Light contractor recently completed a year long project at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project to replace 52 deteriorating, wooden saddles that support the Newhalem Penstock. The old wooden saddles were replaced with new, cast-in-place concrete saddles that will provide structural support so that the penstock will not collapse.

Original wooden saddles (left image) that support the Newhalem Penstock were replaced with new, concrete saddles (right image).

The Newhalem Penstock is located on the south bank of the Skagit River, in the town of Newhalem, WA. The project is within the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, which is part of the North Cascades National Park Complex.

The penstock is a pipe that provides water from the creek to the hydro turbines that are located inside the historical Newhalem Powerhouse. The water turns the turbines, which produces electricity for City Light.

Seattle City Light thanks all campground visitors for their patience during the successful completion of this project.

Learn about this project and others by visiting Seattle City Light’s “At Work in Your Neighborhood” website.

Seattle City (spot)Light: Gilberto Ramirez

Gilberto Ramirez has been a structural painter at City Light for the past ten years. Born in Mexico City, he moved to Seattle 20 years ago and enrolled in an ESL class at Shoreline Community College. “The best part about that was I met my wife—she was my teacher!” Gilberto happily shared. “Lana and I have been married for 14 years.”

Together, they live in Mountlake Terrace with their nine-year old son, Santiago. “My family keeps me busy,” Gilberto said. “I coach my son’s soccer team which has 14 kids. We play every Saturday. My wife is teacher of Judo and Jiu-Jitsu. She’s a black belt. My son practices with her and is also on a gymnastics team.” In this week’s (spot)Light, Gilberto talks about his hobbies and his role here at the utility.

Gilberto (left) with his son, wife and mother-in-law during a trip to Los Angeles

“I enjoy living here because of the rivers and the mountains. My family and I like kayaking. Our favorite places to kayak are Orcas Island and Deception Pass. There’s just so much to see and the water is very smooth. I’m also a scuba diver and go out near West Seattle, but also near Mukilteo and Orcas Island. I like diving because I get to see the nature under water—the fish, the sea life. People have seen octopus, but I still haven’t! Maybe someday.”

“City Light is a good company. I feel like part of the family here and I really like my job. There are seven of us who work as structural painters at the South Service Center. We paint everything—asphalt, trucks, transformers, sheetrock, metals, towers, parking lots and signs. It’s paint, but every job is different. Once you’re done, you look at your work, see what you completed and are satisfied. It’s especially nice when others see your work and tells you that it looks great. That always feels good.”

“The towers are the most challenging to paint because you’re harnessed in and climbing up hundreds of feet with heavy equipment. It requires careful attention. We always put safety first. We also go below ground to paint the walls underneath the city. This is another area where we must be very careful because we’re surrounded by high voltage. We have a safety watch that directs us through the process. We also have a lot of training.”

“I’m inspired by my family. By my son. I try not to give up. Sometimes, the job is hard, but I keep moving. I’m a hard worker and I try to pass those traits onto my son. To never give up and keep moving—those are my goals.”

Seattle City Light System Reliability Work to Affect Traffic on I-405

Seattle City Light crews plan to enhance the reliability of the electrical system by pulling in new fiber-optic cables across Interstate 405 approximately two miles southeast of Alderwood Mall. To ensure safe work operations and passage for motorists, crews must intermittently conduct rolling slowdowns of traffic in both directions of I-405.

The work will take place at night beginning Monday, Sept. 18. Traffic will be intercepted and escorted at slow speeds for up to 15 minutes between just southeast of the I-5/I-405 interchange and NE 195th Street as crews install the new fiber-optic cable overhead across the highway. Traffic will return to normal speeds once past the work area. See the map below for details on the differing locations for north and southbound rolling slowdowns. Drivers should expect delays and consider using alternate routes during construction.

Rolling slowdown details:

Occurring nightly from 11:59 p.m. to 4 a.m. beginning Monday, Sept. 18 through the morning of Friday, Sept. 22:

  • Washington State Patrol troopers and contracted crews will intermittently intercept and escort southbound I-405 traffic through the work area beginning southeast of the I-5/I-405 interchange. The same will occur for northbound traffic beginning at NE 195th
  • Traffic using the following on-ramps to I-405 will also be affected: I-5 northbound to I-405 southbound, I-5 southbound to I-405 southbound, NE 195th Street to northbound I-405, State Route 527 northbound to northbound I-405, and State Route 522 to northbound I-405.
  • Should the crews finish in less than four nights, City Light plans to communicate via social media and at this Website: http://www.seattle.gov/light/atwork/release.asp?RN=397

Customers will benefit from increased electrical reliability. The new fiber-optic lines will provide redundant communication between facilities generating power at City Light’s Skagit hydropower sites, the Bonneville Power Administration, and City Light substations and its system control center.

Seattle City Light’s point of contact for the media is Scott Thomsen, Communications, (206) 615-0978 and scott.thomsen@seattle.gov. Stakeholder (e.g. emergency services) questions can be directed to Mark VanOss, Sr. Public Relations Specialist, (206) 684-3279 and mark.vanoss@seattle.gov.

Map showing affected area of northbound and southbound rolling slowdowns on I-405

Seattle City (spot)Light: Nikitta Vinson

Nikitta Vinson has been with the City of Seattle for twelve years, including her current role as a program intake representative for the Utility Discount Program. “I speak with customers and conduct interviews to see if they meet the program’s eligibility requirements,” Nikitta explained. “We also do community outreach and meet people at different events which is a benefit because it’s often a comfortable environment where people are in their element. There’s also that face-to-face interaction you just don’t have over the phone.”

Nikitta lives near Madrona with her two teenage children—her son Cipher and her daughter Nia. Some of her favorite activities include rollerblading by Alki Beach, walking along Lake Washington and cooking. “I love to make lasagna and my friends and family love to eat it,” she joked. In this week’s (spot)Light, Nikitta talks about the power of food and the importance of building a sense of community.

Nikitta (middle) with her children

“I was born in Seattle, but moved to Eatonville when I was young. Once I graduated from high school, I returned to the city life…it brought me back! I describe Seattle as a great salad bowl. To me, ‘melting pot’ means that once it’s melted, everything is gelled together. With a salad bowl, everything stays the same. Once it’s tossed, it remains integrated which means there’s diversity. And that’s what I was looking for.”

“My parents instilled a love of cooking in me and it’s something I’ve shared with others. Before coming to City Light, I was a teen development leader (later changed to recreation leader) at Parks and Rec. I thought it was important to include cooking as part of the programming—to get the teens in the kitchen working together. Some kids took a little longer to warm up to the idea, but once they got in there, heard the music playing and saw the process, they were engaged. They weren’t focused on trivial matters because everyone was contributing to something that we were all going to consume. So, their thoughts were ‘Yes, I want this to be good’ or ‘Yes, I’m learning a new technique.’ It allowed them to build a sense of community and, with that, more and more kids started to come in and wanted to be involved.”

“Growing up, we had a fish fry every Friday. That’s how our family stayed connected. Even though my dad worked, he made sure we had one. Friends and family would stop by on Fridays because they knew there’d be a fish fry. As a young kid, I didn’t realize the history that went behind that, but it was a tradition—that every Friday there was a meal that brought us together.”

“Now, I have my sense of community by volunteering at Northwest Tap Connection which provides kids with wonderful training in the south end of Seattle–a place that has a negative association. But there is some amazing stuff taking place at that studio. It’s important to me to be there. To be an advocate for the kids and to teach them that they have a voice and that their voice matters. It’s also teaching them how to use that voice through art. To help them understand that they can promote change through an art form, through creativity, through dance.”

Seattle City (spot)Light: Rhonda Denet-Weems

Rhonda Denet-Weems has worked at City Light for 11 years. She serves in the Customer Care Division as an Accounting Tech III. “I act as the research lead which I compare to a private investigator,” Rhonda explained. “I’m responsible for locating misapplied payments, reject payments, researching records for PDR and Law enforcement subpoena requests. It’s interesting because it’s something new every day.”

Born in San Diego, Rhonda moved to the suburbs of Houston when she was 13. Rhonda and her younger brother Edward spent summers with her fraternal grandparents in Boothville, Louisiana (Plaquemines Parish, at the tip of the Mississippi River). She received a B.A. in communications from the University of Texas and graduated from the University of Phoenix with a M.A. in organizational management. Rhonda has lived in Washington for 26 years and resides in Fife with her husband Linton. “We’ll be married 19 years on September 4,” Rhonda shared. Together, they have six children and 22 (!) grandchildren. In this week’s (spot)Light, Rhonda talks about her life in the Northwest and shares her favorite life lessons.

Rhonda and Linton

“I’ve lived in Seattle a long time, but there’s still much I haven’t experienced. I do love that I can see the water and mountains. The greenery is beautiful. I also enjoy living in Fife. It has a country-suburban-feel all at the same time. Everyone in our neighborhood knows one another. It’s very family oriented. We have parks, walking trails and lots of pets— everyone has a dog or a cat.”

“My husband serves as an Assistant Pastor and Minister of Music at the church we attend. I’m there at least three days a week for bible study, choir rehearsals and Sunday church services. I also love to dance. We recently went to the Gladys Knight and O’Jays concert which got us moving. Writing poetry and prose is another interest of mine. My favorite authors are Alice Walker and Terry McMillan.”

“Music is another art that fills our home—we love it. I was a classically trained pianist. My husband is also a music teacher. Each of our children and grandchildren either sing or play an instrument. Some do both!”

“I’ve enjoyed my career at City Light. I love my team in Customer Care and how the utility plans activities for their employees. I also like that there are so many facets to the organization. There’s much to learn from conservation and outage management to Skagit and Boundary. I can go on and on.”

“My mom and my grandmother were my go-to. My father, too. They taught and encouraged me to apply myself 100% in everything I do. Other lessons they imparted on me were to treat people with respect; to be humble; to learn from my mistakes; to take constructive criticism with an open mind; to think before I speak; to work smarter not harder; and to leave work at work. They told me that if I were to do all these things and put my faith and trust in God, that I would go a long way in life, both personally and professionally. I like to think they’re looking down at me and saying, ‘She remembered all that we taught her. She’ll do well.’ “

Last Chance for a Skagit Powerhouse Insiders Tour

Summer is winding down, but you can still close it out with a scenic and historic getaway. The Powerhouse Insiders tour, found at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project in the North Cascades, never fails to delight visitors. This weekend is your last chance to explore it this season!

The tour begins with a beautiful stroll through the historic town of Newhalem. Visitors learn about the town’s unique history through insightful and entertaining tour guides. Be prepared to feel like you have traveled back to the 1920s as you explore the original construction camp for the Skagit Hydroelectric Project. During your walk, you will look on at the breathtaking Skagit River and learn how City Light promotes a healthy ecosystem for salmon.

Next, you’ll see the wonders of hydropower at work inside the Gorge Powerhouse, which is normally closed to the public. (We don’t call it an insider’s tour for nothing.) You’ll walk the generator floor and learn how City Light makes and manages power. There will be expert tour guides accompanying you, so feel free to ask questions. It’s a powerful experience.

After a full afternoon of adventure and fun, you’re sure to work up an appetite.  Don’t worry, because we’ve got you covered. Our cooks have been making tasty picnic lunches for almost 90 years! Enjoy a picnic lunch of chicken (or a vegetarian option) and a side of potato salad to conclude your tour.

We would love to have you along on our Powerhouse Insiders tour before it closes for the season. Don’t miss your chance! Sign up today: http://www.seattle.gov/light/damtours/skagittours.asp

Rate Decrease for City Light Customers Coming in October

A message from Chief Financial Officer Paula Laschober of Seattle City Light.

Starting Oct. 1, 2017, Seattle City Light customers will see lower bills following a rate decrease of approximately 1.6 percent. This decrease was made possible by City Light’s proactive management of its power supply contract with the Bonneville Power Administration.

It is part of the Mission of City Light to deliver affordable electricity services, and this rate decrease is the equivalent to $13 million in annual savings for City Light customers.

In addition to lower bills, the rate decrease will partially offset the scheduled rate increase in January 2018. To meet the needs of Seattle’s rapid development, population growth and its attendant energy demands, and to maintain aging infrastructure to ensure reliable electricity service, City Light implements rate changes approximately every two years. These changes provide the utility sufficient revenue to implement its Strategic Plan, which is developed in partnership with residential and commercial customers and publicly approved with a biennial ordinance by the Seattle City Council.

City Light strives to keep rates low by constantly evaluating our internal business processes to improve operational efficiencies. We also adjust based on external factors that might influence our rates, such as weather impacts or the recent Bonneville Power Administration cost change.

City Light is pleased to offer our customers this rate decrease and will continue to work to fulfill our Mission of delivering affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible electricity services.