Grant County PUD has plenty of customer requests

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EPHRATA — While cryptocurrency is causing all the buzz, other customers are being attracted to Grant County by, among other things, inexpensive electricity. That’s according to a quarterly power delivery report at Tuesday’s meeting of the Grant County PUD commissioners.

The PUD got a flood of new applications in summer and fall 2017, many of them from people and businesses involved in cryptocurrency. Some were requests, some were inquiries, but filling all of them would’ve used up all the PUD’s available generation capacity. In light of that, utility district officials stopped working on new customer requests until employees worked out a new rate class for "emerging industries," like cryptocurrency.

But not all of those requests were cryptocurrency. “There’s a group of 28 that are considered general customers,” said Russ Seiler, an engineer with the PUD. Of those 28 proposed projects, 15 are “distribution size,” Seiler said, ranging between one and 10 megawatts. “These would be projects that don’t require any substation work.” Those are located in Quincy, north of Moses Lake in the Larson area, in the Moses Lake municipal area, and in Warden.

Five projects might "require a new transformer in an existing substation.” They are in the Quincy and Moses Lake areas. “It’s not as complicated as a brand new substation, because you have an existing footprint you’re expanding, but you are getting into a bigger project.”

The remaining eight are new substations, including two in Quincy, one near Royal City and five of varying sizes north of Moses Lake. “You’re seeing your megawatts go up,” Seiler said. The two biggest requests are for 20 megawatts each, both in Quincy.

Three of the new substations north of Moses Lake would power pumps for the expansion of surface irrigation water into the Odessa subarea.

“This body of 28 (proposals) represents 205 megawatts of requests,” Seiler said. “Were this to all get processed through, you’re talking about increasing the load on the system by fully a third, or better than a third.”

“We don’t actually necessarily have applications submitted for these?” asked commissioner Bob Bernd.

Seiler said those customers haven’t applied because the PUD wasn’t taking new applications. “They’ve expressed interest – it’s not that haven’t wanted to apply,” said chief executive officer Kevin Nordt. “These aren’t speculative that you’re guessing these are coming.”

Once applications are being accepted, they’ll be reviewed before being passed on to the PUD’s engineering department. Once they get that far, “the plan is to take the full body of applications that come through,” Seiler said. At that point, customers will get some estimates of cost and how long the project would take to finish.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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