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Power transmission

Winter 2011

A power shortage

Don Kopczynski ’91 first noticed the power industry’s newest problem around the year 2000. The vice president for Avista Corp. counted 100 engineers on his team. Looking ahead, he realized that half of them would be retiring simultaneously. It made sense, since they all came out of school and entered the workforce at the same time. “We’ve been together our whole careers,’’ he says.

The looming shortage of engineers, though, is not limited to Avista. It’s a national issue, according to a recent survey by the Center for Energy Workforce Development. Fifty-one percent of engineers working in the power industry, including electric, natural gas, and … » More …

Fall 2011

Research gone wild: Engineering power in the Pacific Northwest, part II

In 1946, the Washington State Legislature established Washington State College’s Institute of Technology. In a 1986 oral history, Eugene Greenfield, who directed the Institute’s Division of Industrial Research starting in 1958, explained that the purpose of the institute was to “find technological means for inducing a larger industrial output in the State of Washington.’’

“At the end of [World War II], industry was flopped right straight on its back,’’ said Greenfield. “There was nothing doing, and it looked as though it would be many years before industry would be picking up.’’

The legislature would provide $500,000 a year to fund a division “whose sole purpose … » More …

Summer 2011

Current events—engineering power in the Pacific Northwest

When electricity first came to Washington in September of 1885, just a few electric lights illuminated downtown Spokane. By the following March, Seattle had them, too. From those early days, Washington State College had a role in helping spread and improve delivery of electricity throughout the state, with many graduates active in the power industry.

The chief engineer for Washington Water Power (WWP) at Long Lake Dam, completed in 1915, and Little Falls Dam, completed in 1911, was a WSC graduate, as was the superintendent of construction. Nineteen students and graduates worked on the Long Lake job. On the Skagit River Project for the City … » More …

Winter 2003

Blackouts: How often do we want them?

Living in a subdivision where the power lines are strung on poles in our back alleys, we have had more than our usual share of power outages this summer. This has been blamed on the rapid expansion of the neighborhood squirrel population because of the loud pop of the short-circuit that preceded every incident. On August 14, my wife wondered aloud how big the squirrel must have been to have popped everything from Detroit to New York City.

The blame game for the massive outage is just starting. We’ll hear about the operators who didn’t open circuit breakers in time, the engineers who didn’t design … » More …