Bonneville Power Authority (BPA) markets wholesale electrical power from 31 federal hydro projects in the Columbia River Basin, one non-federal nuclear plant and several other small non-federal power plants. BPA’s service territory includes Idaho, Oregon, Washington, western Montana and small parts of eastern Montana, California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming and supplies about one third of the electric power used in the Northwest.
BPA’s staff operate and maintain the extensive high voltage transmission system (about 15,000 miles) in some of the most rugged and difficult to access territory in continental United States. In this environment, reliable voice communication is essential for the safe operation and maintenance of the system. In recent years cellular telephones and an extensive microwave/fiber backhaul supported VHF radio system have provided the BPA’s communication needs. BPA’s existing voice and data administrative communications systems are highly dependent on connective infrastructure and line-of-sight radio communications. They are, therefore, subject to gaps in existing areas of coverage, and to potentially widespread degradation of the service during significant disruptive events.
Recognizing these gaps, BPA’s Transmission Services Emergency Manager, worked on obtaining management approval to develop and implement an emergency High Frequency (HF) radio communication system. HF networks are independent of infrastructure and will incur no further network charges once the radio equipment is procured.