PUD opens $13 million data center

Public Utility District will no longer have to maneuver in an operations room built 40 years ago when it served a third of the customers it does now.

The utility’s $13 million operations center will have updated electronics and much more room for staff members to work when they’re coordinating responses to power outages during a storm.

“It’s just bigger and brighter,” said Chris Heimgartner, an assistant general manager for the PUD.

About 80 people, many of them employees, attended an opening ceremony Wednesday for the new building at the PUD campus near the Boeing plant.

“If we tried to squeeze all of you into our (current) decades-old energy center, you wouldn’t fit,” PUD director Steve Klein told the group.

The PUD, which serves 325,000 customers, will move its staff from the current operations center to the new building next door over the course of the next couple of months, officials said. The current center will be remodeled into administrative offices.

Dubbed the “EC-DC” the Energy Control and Data Center the new, 37,000-square-foot building will allow for instant electronic mapping of outages. Currently, it’s all done by hand with pegs and flags on a large physical map of Snohomish County and Camano Island.

Electronic mapping allows the information to flow into a control system that enables crews to respond to power outages more quickly and efficiently, Heimgartner said.

The status of the system is shown in lights on a grid map 17 feet wide by 15 feet tall. It’s at the end of a curved, 138-foot-long map where outages will still be mapped by hand as a backup to the electronic system.

While the current data center was carved out of the building, “this is a room that was built to be a data center,” Heimgartner said.

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