Events in Poulsbo

Western Lecture Series

History and Current Status of the Electricity Infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest

Tuesday, May 20, 2014
5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
WWU Center at OC Poulsbo, Room to be announced
Free to attend


Electricity first came to Washington State in 1881 when the SS Willamette anchored in Elliot Bay; Edison Central Stations began to be built shortly after. These early Edison Central Systems were 100 volt direct current systems driven by steam dynamos that supplied tens of kilowatts to end-use customers, generally in the form of lighting load. Today, electricity is supplied by a single interconnected multi-voltage alternating current system operating at up to 500,000 volts and is supplied by generators that can be hundreds of megawatts each. The end-use loads have also expanded to include heating, cooling, and large motor loads for industry.

In the 130+ years since the SS Willamette first visited Washington State the regions electricity infrastructure has continually grown and evolved to meet the demands of the end-use customers; over this period of time all aspects of the infrastructure have changed. While early changes focused on the best voltage to use and which companies should supply which regions, recent issues have focused on what is the best mix of generation assets and how to best incorporate emerging smart grid technologies. High penetration levels of wind generation, aging infrastructure, privacy concerns with customer information, and cyber-security are just a few of the issues facing the industry today. This presentation will include a brief history of the regions electricity infrastructure and then discuss the issues that are being faced today, and the societal impact of the chosen solutions.


Kevin Schneider served in the US Navy as a nuclear electrician for six years including a tour on the USS Los Angeles (SSN-688). After leaving the Navy he received his B.S. degree in Physics and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Washington. He is currently a senior research engineer at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, working at the Battelle Seattle Research Center in Seattle Washington. His main areas of research are distribution system analysis and power system operations. He leads many of the laboratories efforts in the areas of distribution and microgrid analysis.

Page Updated 07.30.2014