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Electrify Africa becomes law

(ARLINGTON, Va.) — The President signed into law S. 2152, the Electrify Africa Act, with strong praise from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and America’s electric cooperatives. Three years after the bill was first introduced, this law will now bring electricity to 50 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, and lift rural communities from impoverished conditions to improved economic activity and a higher quality of life. The presidential signature came after passage of the Act in the U.S. House of Representatives last week. This followed the Senate’s unanimous passing of the legislation in December.

“We are celebrating this achievement with all our members, because our domestic and international work has always focused on power distribution, and making it possible for people to have direct access to electricity,” said NRECA Interim CEO Jeffrey Connor. “This new law makes it possible to have a significant impact on the lives of millions, and we are proud to be part of this worthwhile effort to bring power to Sub-Saharan Africa. We applaud and thank the bipartisan leadership of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Ranking Member Sen. Ben Cardin (D-M.D.), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who all believe that promoting economic development by expanding access to electricity will benefit people on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Sen. Corker’s leadership on this legislation has been extraordinary,” says David Callis, executive vice president of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We are looking forward to see the lights come on for millions in rural Africa.”

NRECA’s international affiliate—NRECA International – has worked in developing countries since 1962. Its global commitment has provided electricity to more than 110 million people in 43 countries.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives in the United States. Those co-ops provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.

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8th Day Software – Henderson

8th Day Software specializes in highly technical solutions for healthcare companies across the country, but perhaps its greatest innovation has little to do with code and lots to do with location.

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8th Day Software founder Dave Loschinskey.

Dave Loschinskey would fit in well in Silicon Valley. His resume includes a stint as a Fortune 50 healthcare technology executive and leader of a multimillion-dollar consulting practice at Oracle. But recently he has been spending less time in San Francisco and more time in West Tennessee.

Henderson is a community about 15 minutes south of Jackson in Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation’s service territory. The town of 6,000 is known for its barbecue, school system and proximity to Chickasaw State Park and Forest. It is certainly not the typical place to put a software company.

“People think I am either really smart or crazy to build a software company here,” says Loschinskey, CEO of 8th Day Software.

“This is the result of a couple of frustrations I had when I was the chief information officer of a big healthcare company,” he says. “We did our best to use resources responsibly, and that often meant that we outsourced some software development to other countries. Unfortunately, there were time-zone challenges, language barriers and culture differences that prevented us from creating the innovative products we wanted.”

Manny Grillis, a technical director at 8th Day Software, supervises the development of medical software that helps doctors treat patients more effectively.

Manny Grillis, a technical director at 8th Day Software, supervises the development of medical software that helps doctors treat patients more effectively.

Ruralsourcing

Companies needing custom software typically have two options: expensive consultants from Atlanta, Chicago or New York or inexpensive developers in Pakistan, India or China. “What we are doing here in Henderson is creating another option,” says Loschinskey. “We share similar time zones, languages and cultures with our clients, but our operating expenses are much lower than other U.S.-based providers. It allows us to create innovative solutions at cost-effective prices.”

“We were at Stanford University earlier this year, demonstrating a product for clients, and we showed them on a map where the product was built,” he says. “They could not believe that it could happen in such a small town.”

8th Day’s 23 software developers work at the company’s domestic solutions center in Henderson, writing code for programs used in hospitals and medical research.

8th Day’s 23 software developers work at the company’s domestic solutions center in Henderson, writing code for programs used in hospitals and medical research.

Selling small towns

Loschinskey is an advocate of rural America, quick to mention the benefits of lower taxes, inexpensive real estate and little traffic.

8th Day has seen success in finding the talent it needs in Henderson. “Millennials don’t want to sit in traffic,” says Loschinskey. “They want to ride their bikes to work and go visit their kids at school at lunchtime. These attributes are more valuable than earning a few more dollars in an urban area.”

Kaleb Glass was the first employee hired by 8th Day in Henderson. Glass was a student at Freed-Hardeman University, just down the street from 8th Day’s office, when he first learned of the company. “I received an email from a professor about this job opportunity, and I jumped on it,” Glass says.

“I expected to end up in a big city,” says Glass, a software engineer and father of two. “But Henderson is a great place to raise kids. It is a good community with good people, and there is no traffic — I always know how long it will take me to get to work.”

“We’re thrilled that 8th Day Software chose Henderson to grow its domestic sourcing business,” says Henderson Mayor Bobby King. “It offers employment opportunities for Freed-Hardeman University and other graduates who previously would have had to work in a city to pursue a career in information technology.”

Kaleb Glass is a software engineer that specializes in security. Glass, the first employee hired by 8th Day in Henderson, ensures that the sensitive medical information handled by 8th Day's software is protected.

Kaleb Glass is a software engineer that specializes in security. Glass, the first employee hired by 8th Day in Henderson, ensures that the sensitive medical information handled by 8th Day’s software is protected.

Making connections

Broadband Internet is a key part of the 8th Day story, and Henderson has something rarely found in rural Tennessee — a gigabit fiber network.

“Ninety percent of our clients are in other parts of the country, and broadband allows us to connect and collaborate,” says Loschinskey. “We have clients in places like Ann Arbor, Mich., and Chicago who can’t get gigabit Internet, and they can’t believe that we have it in Henderson.”

“Encouraging entrepreneurs is important to us in Henderson,” says King. “Offering gigabit Internet, high school coding classes, a strong chamber of commerce and a quality of life that people of all ages can enjoy, Henderson is an ideal incubator for business start-ups.”

Loschinskey says that small towns have a problem with self-esteem. “We believe that small towns can do manufacturing and retail,” he says. “We believe that small towns can have a doctor’s office and a couple of nurses. Why don’t we believe that small towns can have engineering firms and creative design firms and software development firms?

“We at 8th Day dispel a lot of myths, and people have a different view of small towns when they hear our story and see what we are doing in Henderson.”


Telling the story of rural Tennessee

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are celebrating innovation and creativity in rural Tennessee and exploring opportunities for co-ops to be advocates for our communities. “Concern for community is one of our guiding principles,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Whether it be broadband expansion, political affairs or economic development, co-ops have unique opportunities to improve lives in real ways.”

We need you to help us tell the story of rural and suburban Tennessee. Use the hashtag #smalltownsbigideas on Twitter and Facebook to tell us about the great things happening where you live.

FPU and Wal-Mart Give Back to the Community

Christmas came early this year for a few local school children thanks to the help of Fayetteville Public Utilities and Wal-Mart. FPU and Wal-Mart partnered together to purchase 14 bicycles to give away to area school children.

“The hope is these bicycles will bring excitement and fun to some well-deserving children in our community,” says FPU CEO/ General Manager Britt Dye. “At FPU we care about our community, and we want to give back. We wanted to do something for the children in our community this year, and we thought a bicycle giveaway would be a great way to bring Christmas cheer to some well-deserving children. We wanted to partner with Wal-Mart because they are a part of our community, too. Without the help of Wal-Mart and Store Manager Travis Jean this would not have been possible.”

When asked why Wal-Mart was eager to partner with FPU to help with the bicycle giveaway, Travis Jean said, “Wal-Mart may be a large corporation, but we are a community store. We appreciate our customers, and the community in which we live, and we want to give back to our community.”

The bicycles were awarded to one boy and one girl in the third grade at Ralph Askins, Blanche, Flintville, Highland Rim, South Lincoln, Unity schools, and Riverside Christian Academy. The bicycles were awarded on December 16, 2015 by FPU CEO/ General Manager Britt Dye and Wal-Mart Store Manager Travis Jean.

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Fayetteville PU constructs water treatment plant

Construction of Fayetteville Public Utilities’ (FPU) new water treatment plant is progressing as major components of the facility have been constructed and installed over recent months.

“The new water treatment plant has not only been a long-awaited vision for FPU, but also a necessity for the community,” says FPU’s CEO and General Manager Britt Dye. “As regulations and testing requirements become more demanding, we must be able to meet those guidelines by producing an even higher quality of water. The new water treatment facility will help us continue doing that now and for years to follow.”

FPU began construction of its new water treatment plant in 2014. Before construction of the plant facility itself began, FPU had to secure the membrane filtration system around which the new plant is being constructed. The new filtration system will improve water quality and availability for FPU customers and will serve projected growth of the community for the next several decades.

Earlier this year, the flash mix, flocculation, sedimentation and equalization basins were completed. As water is taken from the Elk River, it must first be pretreated with coagulants and other chemicals to aid in the subsequent treatment processes. This structure contains a 16-inch static mixer and chemical feed equipment to accomplish this first step in the process. The new plant has redundant trains for the flocculation and sedimentation processes which allow for maintenance and cleaning without a plant shutdown. Each train consists of two flocculation basins followed by a sedimentation basin and an equalization basin. A splitter box has also been constructed and will use large gates to allow operators to adjust flows between the two trains as needed.

IMG_0983In September 2015, the infrastructure for the membrane filtration system arrived and is being installed. Photos of the piping necessary to support the filtration operation show the complexity of FPU’s new filtration system.

The membrane filtration building floor contains extensive underground piping. Inside the filtration part of the new plant facility, racks of piping support the membrane filter cartridges and their components. This piping will carry water to and from the membranes as it is filtered.

The new water treatment plant will include a state-of-the-art SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system. Power and control wiring in the thousands of feet will be required to energize and control the membrane filters, pumps and instruments. In addition to conventional copper wiring, fiber optic cable will also be used to provide secure and reliable connectivity.

The existing plant continues to operate during the new plant construction. FPU’s new water treatment plant is expected to be complete in early 2016.

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Appalachian EC announces community solar project

Appalachian Electric Cooperative is proud to be leading the effort to help folks take advantage of the benefits of solar power and join with others who are supporters of clean, renewable energy.

Community-based solar power is an idea whose time has come, according to AEC General Manager Greg Williams: “It’s all about leveraging the economies of scale to improve affordability. Our ‘Co-op Community Solar’ program will make it possible for our residential and commercial members to reap all the benefits of solar generation—including both cost-effectiveness and environmental sustainability—without having to hassle with the challenges involved with installing photovoltaic panels and the ongoing maintenance costs required to keep them performing at maximum capacity. It’s also a powerful feeling to be a part of something with positive environmental impacts that extend much farther than those of any single individual.”

Construction work will begin this fall on a 1.373-megawatt community solar facility to be located on a seven-acre site adjacent to AEC’s New Market Substation, just off of Highway 11E. It will feature a total of 9,468 photovoltaic panels, each of which will be rated at 145 watts. The project is scheduled for completion in late 2016 and the facility is expected to generate 1,804,000 kilowatt-hours in the first year of operation. Based on average residential kWh use by members throughout AEC’s service area, Co-op Community Solar will produce enough clean, renewable energy to supply all the power needs of approximately 115 homes for an entire year.

The new initiative is made possible in part through a grant provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and is one of only two pilot programs to receive this funding in the entire Valley region. The Cooperative will be relying on Knoxville-based contractor ARiES Energy for project construction and will turn to the National Renewable Cooperative Organization to assist with project management.

Project costs will be fully funded through revenue generated via a purchased power agreement with TVA. There will be no impact to AEC’s retail rates as a result of Co-op Community Solar.

“This is one of those concepts that just makes so much sense on many different levels,” says Williams. “By coming together as a community of co-op members to support solar generation, cost per watt will be less than for an individual installation and energy output is maximized. Plus, the benefits of community solar are available to those who rent or homeowners whose properties are shaded or whose roofs are not well-suited for the installation of solar panels. Here at the co-op, we are really eager to bring this resource to these folks.”

During the first quarter of 2016, AEC will begin rolling out a marketing plan that will address participation costs and other specifics of how members will be able to take advantage of Co-op Community Solar. At that time, details will be provided so that interested members learn what’s involved in subscribing and how they can benefit.

TVA’s Renewable Energy Solutions Senior Manager Neil Placer said his team will be working with AEC to structure Co-op Community Solar in such a way as to engage AEC members: “Our goal is to support the kind of innovative approach to community solar generation that gives local people multiple ways to participate.”

An additional goal for the program—and it’s a very important one, according to Williams—is member education. “An area at the site will be dedicated to helping folks understand how solar power works and why renewable energy in general is such an important future generating source,” he says. “We’ll be partnering with local schools to develop a space that can be used to help educate the next generation of co-op members.”

Williams notes the significance of announcing the initiative at the co-op’s 75th annual meeting: “A milestone anniversary is naturally a time when you stop to reflect on the accomplishments of the past, and we certainly enjoyed celebrating AEC’s rich heritage. But there was something very special about being able to share this exciting news with our members. They’ve turned to us for safe, affordable, reliable electric power for three-quarters of a century. As we head toward the 100-year-mark, we’re fully committed to finding new ways to continue to add value to their lives.”

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America rediscovers the cooperative difference

Your alarm goes off and you get out of bed. You go outside and grab the morning paper. You sit down at the kitchen table to read your paper while enjoying a glass of juice and some toast. After breakfast you head down to the local hardware store to pick up supplies to tackle your weekend to-do list.

For many Americans, that simple morning routine would bring them in contact with at least five different cooperatives.

That alarm could be powered by electricity from one of Tennessee’s 23 electric co-ops. The paper is likely filled with stories from the Associated Press. The juice might be Sunkist, Ocean Spray or Florida’s Natural. The butter on your toast could have been processed by one of several dairy co-ops, including Dairy Farmers of America or Land-O-Lakes. If the local hardware store is a True Value, Ace or Do-It-Best, then it’s part of a co-op, too.

If you’ve been a co-op member for long, you’ve probably heard these examples before. What you might not realize is that this time-tested business model has been rediscovered by a new generation of Americans who appreciate doing business with locally based organizations that put people ahead of profits.

Co-ops are experiencing a surge in popularity. Today, it is estimated that one in three Americans is a member of at least one cooperative. America’s electric cooperative network now serves 42 million Americans. In 2014, America’s credit unions surpassed 100 million members.

In addition to the growth of true cooperative organizations, there has been a surge in the popularity of other funding and business models that feature many of the same traits as cooperatives.

Websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe allow large groups of people to pool small contributions to achieve a larger goal. Though groups raising money through these sites aren’t cooperatives, it’s clear that an increasing number of people are seeing the value of working together and pooling resources to improve their communities.

The benefits of being a member of your electric co-op go far beyond the warm fuzzy feeling we get from supporting a local business and keeping our dollars in our communities.

As a not-for-profit cooperative, our sole mission is to ensure you have safe, reliable and affordable electricity when you need it. We aren’t in business to make a profit, we aren’t trying to get elected to public office and we don’t have a hidden agenda. Our job is to look out for you and your fellow co-op members.

That’s important to keep in mind in as we go through an unprecedented period of transition in the energy industry.

The coming years are likely to bring many changes to the way our nation generates, delivers, stores, consumes and regulates energy.

When an industry goes through a change of this magnitude, there will be many interest groups vying to influence policy and advance their agendas. As that process unfolds, there will only be one group that’s truly acting as the voice of energy consumers, and that’s America’s electric cooperatives.

We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but you can rest assured knowing that your electric co-op – and more than 900 other not-for-profit electric cooperatives across the U.S. – will be working hard to ensure your voice is part of the conversation. And that’s the cooperative difference.

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Co-ops Pull Together

Some 25,000 people attended the 2015 Lions’ Club Super Pull of the South in Chapel Hill on Friday and Saturday, July 24 and 25. The event was sponsored by the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives of Tennessee and TECA.

More than 70 volunteers from eight of Tennessee’s 10 Touchstone Energy Cooperatives volunteered to make the event a success. Each participating co-op as well as TECA and The Tennessee Magazine had displays set up and greeted co-op members from across the state. The Touchstone Energy hot air balloon team flew over the stands with the American flag during the opening ceremony and gave tethered rides each evening.

“The Chapel Hill Lions Club was extremely appreciative of Touchstone Energy and TECA sponsorships and the involvement of the electric co-ops. It was a record-setting event with huge crowds each night,” says Steve Oden, director of member services for Duck River EMC. “Thanks goes to the more than 70 employee volunteers from eight Touchstone electric cooperatives who helped make the brand shine.”

“It was great to see so many of our co-ops work together on this event,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The partnerships between Touchstone Energy, participating co-ops and TECA allowed us to have a presence and reach our members in ways that no single co-op could have done. We hope this is the first of many opportunities for co-ops to partner and tell our story.”

Touchstone Energy produced the video below as a part of their On Tour project. You can read more about their experience in Chapel Hill at ontour.touchstoneenergy.com.

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FPU’s telecom customer growth holding steady

With rate changes due to annual programming cost increases, Fayetteville Public Utilities’ (FPU) Telecom Department continues to show steady growth and sustainability in customer retention.

“The cable and Internet industries receive a lot of “churn” due to cable or satellite dish contracts and customers’ relocations, but what continues to be FPU’s best-selling point is the quality of service we provide our customers 24 hours a day,” says FPU’s CEO and General Manager Britt Dye. “We work with residential and commercial customers every day to offer the best solutions for their telecom needs.”

Because FPU has a unique position in the industry of providing multiple utility services, customers who apply for new utilities and live in a serviceable area for the utility’s telecom services are most likely to choose FPU as their cable, Internet, and phone service provider above other competitors.

FPU’s Telecom Department continues to plan for future telecom expansions in rural county areas in order to reach residents who do not have access to high-speed Internet service. In many of these areas, FPU is able to offer fiber-to-the-home service. FPU also continues to expand its EPON (Ethernet Passive Optical Network) service to local commercial and industrial customers to offer greater bandwidth for business applications.

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4H Electric Camp

Three hundred rising seventh and eight graders from across the state of Tennessee are exploring the world of energy, electricity and the basic sciences at the 2015 4-H Electric Camp. While visiting the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus, 4-H members will discover the world of electricity by participating in various camp learning centers. These learning centers will be taught on Wednesday and Thursday morning, July 8 and 9, from 8:00 a.m. to 11:55 a.m. These learning centers provide “hands-on” activities where 4-H’ers “learn by doing.” This year’s learning centers feature:

Trouble Light – This learning center will teach you some of the basic wiring techniques that are used by electricians every day. You will have the opportunity to demonstrate what you have learned by wiring up a trouble light which you can take with you to use in your home.

Home Energy Conservation – We use electricity to light our home, cook our food, play music, and operate televisions. But as we use more electricity in our homes, our electric bills rise. In this activity, you will learn how conserving electricity in your home not only helps to lower your electric bill, but also helps to conserve our environment.

STEM Learning Center – So what is STEM? This learning center will increase your knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) principles such as electricity, energy conservation, alternative energy sources, electronics, computer applications, robotics, electrical safety, engineering, and other basic sciences through “hands-on” learning activities.

Electric Vehicles – Campers will learn about batteries, DC current, and how DC current is used to propel electric vehicles. You will also demonstrate your driving skills by maneuvering an electric golf cart through an obstacle course.

Solar Energy – Renewable energy resources reduce the use of fossil fuels and negative impacts on our environment. In this activity, you will learn about how you can use the sun to power things that you use every day. Join us as you discover all about solar energy.

Electrical Safety – Electric power does a tremendous amount of work for us; but, because it is such a powerful force, we must be careful around it. This learning center will teach you how to play it safe around high voltage power lines.

The 4-H Electric Camp is a joint venture of The University of Tennessee Extension; Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and Tennessee’s electric cooperatives; Tennessee Municipal Electric Power Association and its statewide municipal power systems; and TVA.

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Energy Education

by David Callis
Executive Vice President and General Manager

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” This quote from historian Daniel Boorstin sums up a challenge we face in the electric utility industry.

As we get older, we (hopefully) become fairly well educated and consider ourselves to have a wider breadth and depth of knowledge. We tend to have reasonably good knowledge of our jobs and perhaps a few other areas. But it’s a big world, and it’s difficult to be an expert in every field.

I have — at best — a cursory knowledge of farming. In fact, if we were dependent on my farming skills to feed us, there’s a good chance we’d all go hungry. Recently, a friend and colleague of mine told me about an innovation he was using at his farm. He began using large grain bags as temporary corn storage. He tells me that this technique is used in other countries but isn’t common in the United States. His farm uses specialized equipment that attaches to a tractor to provide the power source for an auger that fills the bags. Each plastic bag is 10 feet wide by 300 feet long, holds 12,000 to 13,000 bushels and is not reusable. He described them as “Hefty bags on steroids.”

The point of the story is that this is something I never knew existed, but this temporary storage can help make the difference in his farming operation being successful and grain being available when needed. That’s important. I now know something that I didn’t know I didn’t know.

Everyone knows how to use electricity — you flip a switch or plug in an appliance. Even a child learns early on how to turn the lights on and off. However, it takes caring parents and adults to educate that child on how to use caution around electricity. Until they’re educated about safety, they didn’t know what they didn’t know.

As an adult, you know (or should know) how to safely use electricity. However, you might not be aware of how that electricity is made and delivered to your home or business.

That’s where we come in. Our task is to educate you on the challenges we face in keeping the electricity flowing. Tennessee’s co-ops deliver electricity generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. For more than 80 years, this regional partnership has electrified the Southeast.

TVA and your local electric cooperative are dedicated to delivering power to you at the lowest possible cost. That’s the duty imposed on TVA by Congress, and it’s our promise to you.

By its very nature, electricity is charged — positively or negatively. Unfortunately, energy policy has become politically charged. That’s not something of our choosing, but it’s the reality we face. That hasn’t always been the case, but it has certainly taken center stage over the past few years.

The challenge for us is to cooperate with our regulatory agencies as we operate and maintain the grid and to keep you informed about the decisions we make. We have a variety of choices when it comes to power sources: renewable energy, hydro power, nuclear power and coal-fired generation. As I’ve stated previously, each has its benefits and shortcomings. We have to make decisions that allow us to continue to provide power to you — now and into the future.

Our pledge to you is to provide you with facts — not opinions. We want you to know what you don’t know you don’t know.

Flickr photo by Bill Erickson