Ice Breakers

Tennessee Linemen Answer the Call

“I knew things were going to be difficult for Tennessee,” says Sid Sperry, director of public relations, communications and research at the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. In 2007, Sperry — with the assistance of Steve Piltz of the National Weather Service office in Tulsa, Okla. — developed the Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index, or SPIA Index, a prediction tool that projects the footprint, ice accumulation and damage from approaching ice storms.

Three days before freezing rain, trees and power lines began to fall on Saturday, Feb. 21, Tennessee co-ops were aware that the SPIA Index was predicting widespread damage, including a Level 4 event in part of the state. “A L­­evel 4 event means significant damage and prolonged power outages,” says Sperry.

“Ice is different from tornadoes and thunderstorms,” says Aaron Hood, a service foreman for Volunteer Energy Cooperative in Benton. “In those types of events, you might have severe damage in some areas and no damage in others. But with ice, the damage is widespread.

“The entire (Cumberland) Plateau suffered severe damage. We saw areas where everything was covered in an inch of ice. The weight brought down trees, poles, all of it.”

Hood left home on Saturday, Feb. 21, and did not return home until Tuesday, March 3, working about 16 hours each day. “We would work from daylight until 10 p.m. or midnight,” Hood says.

“These folks can’t get their power on themselves; they need our help,” he says. “I think about the elderly. That’s someone’s mother or father, and we are accountable to those people. We have a responsibility — a privilege — to help them. In an event like this, when you know it will take several days to help everyone, it is a marathon — mentally and physically. We are not reconnecting meters; we are reconnecting people.”

The Feb. 21 event and another the previous week left their marks on Tennessee: more than $10 million in damage and 1,000 broken poles across the state. Some 500 lineworkers from Tennessee and surrounding states descended on the areas of greatest damage, working for days to restore service to co-op members.

“These are special people,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The conditions are brutal and dangerous, yet they keep working. It is an honor to be associated with them.”

Hood was moved by the response restoration crews received from members: “They gave us meals, coffee and doughnuts. People I had never met hugged us. They went out of their way to show their hospitality and appreciation. Everyone was working together to help each other.”

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

National Lineman Appreciation Day is Monday, April 13. In Tennessee, there are more than 700 co-op linemen who restore power during outages and maintain 86,000 miles of distribution lines and equipment. Linemen put their lives on the line every day to serve our communities. Help us tell them “Thanks!” by posting on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #ThankAlinemanTN. We will share your messages with co-op linemen across the state.

Holston EC names Sandlin

Rogersville, TN – Holston Electric Cooperative announces the hiring of James B. “Jimmy” Sandlin P.E. as the new general manager for Holston Electric Cooperative. Sandlin will assume his responsibilities at Holston on May 4, succeeding Larry Elkins, who is retiring after a 35-year career.

Sandlin is a 27-year veteran of the electric utility industry, having spent his entire career at the Scottsboro Electric Power Board in Scottsboro, Ala. Sandlin has a bachelor of science degree from the University of Alabama and is a licensed professional engineer and a licensed instrument-rated private pilot. Sandlin was hired by the Scottsboro EPB in 1988 as an electrical engineer and has been the general manager since 1996. He has a proven track record. Under Sandlin’s leadership, Scottsboro EPB has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success in the expansion and modernization of its electric system, the construction of a $8.5 million cable system and the acquisition of a $2.1 million power generation plant, which is under contract with TVA.

Holston EC Board president Gordell Ely congratulates Sandlin and expressed his excitement for the cooperative, members and employees: “The board of directors desires that Holston EC continues its record of success with Jimmy and the dedicated staff of employees. We appreciate his enthusiasm, experience and vision for our utility. The next five to 10 years will be key in charting a course for success for Holston EC, and we feel sure that Jimmy will show great, competent leadership, a concern for our employees and a focus on customer service for our members.”

“I am excited about this opportunity here at Holston Electric Cooperative, and I am grateful for the confidence the board of directors has placed in me,” Sandlin says. “I look forward to getting to know the employees as we work to serve our members. We are going to continue the exemplary record of good service, good reliability and an excellent safety record here at Holston Electric Cooperative. There will be challenges, but with everyone working together toward a common goal, we indeed can enjoy success.”

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Holston Electric Cooperative serves 30,500 members in Hawkins, Hamblen and Greene counties in Tennessee. Holston EC has 60 dedicated employees who maintain and operate a 2,600 mile distribution system that covers a 525 square-mile service area.

Quality surge protection

There is little, if anything, you can buy today that does not have some electronic component. Even clothing as wearable electronics are starting to take hold. Not to mention a device (http://www.makeymakey.com) that allows you to make a keyboard from bananas. So, it’s time to take a look at making sure your electronics last as long as possible. I’m not talking  about replacement plans or extended warranties. Today we’re talking about protecting your products from electrical surges.

The first order of business is to define a surge. Here’s one from Computer Hope (http://www.computerhope.com/jargon/s/surge.htm) on the ‘Net. “Alternatively known as a line surge, a surge is an unexpected increase in voltage in an electrical current that causes damage to electrical equipment. For example, the standard United States voltage is 120V. If an electrical current above this rating was to come through a power outlet for more than three nanoseconds, this would be considered a surge, anything less is considered a spike. A surge is usually created by lightning and can damage unprotected computers and sometimes even protected computers.”

Many people think a blink from your local power company is a surge, but these are generally caused by something like a tree contacting a line. In such cases, the system’s protective devices work, causing an interruption to protect the wires and other components. These are not surges, but more like turning a light on and off.

True surges will enter a home through any number of avenues. The most obvious is through the power lines. Less obvious is through the telephone lines, cable/satellite connections, water lines and any other metallic system that connects to your home. So, to protect against surges, you need to take a three-pronged approach.

Perhaps the most important thing to do is to be sure all the grounds in your home are good and that they are bonded together. Over the years, grounds can deteriorate, new services can be added with inadequate grounding and so forth. A faulty ground will allow surges into the home rather than bleeding them off into the earth. Get a qualified electrician to test and correct your grounding system.

Next, protect your electrical service entrance with a surge device. [If your co-op offers surge devices, include that information here] The easiest to install are those mounted behind the meter. They can also be mounted at the main electric panel. When a surge travels down the electric lines, these devices will act to “clamp” the surge and reduce its power. These are sacrificial devices that allow themselves to be destroyed rather than allowing the surge to pass through. Noble devices indeed!

The third prong is to protect expensive devices at their point of use. Computers and entertainment equipment are prime examples. Remember that surges can enter the home via avenues other than the power lines. Computers and entertainment equipment are frequently connected to cable and phone lines. Those devices need to have protection at the point of use that covers all possible avenues. These are generally in the form of a power strip or wall device most of us are familiar with. Use a quality product from a manufacturer such as Monster, Belkin, Tripp Lite, or APC, to name a few. Look for one with a joule rating of at least 1,000, a connected equipment warranty and compatibility with digital signals from cable and satellite. While you are at it, look for a “smart” strip that turns off all but one connected device when not in use.

Save money on your electric bill while protecting your equipment. It’s a definite win-win.

Tom Tate writes on cooperative issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

Energy updates that make sense

By Brian Sloboda

When it comes to energy efficiency, there are two ways to measure improvements. The first is the payback period. This is the amount of time that the improvement will pay for itself. The second is comfort. Improvements can often increase the comfort level of a home. This is not easy to measure, but it is one of the driving forces behind home weatherization efforts. There are several areas of the home that can be improved easily, without breaking your budget.

Lighting

In recent months, the price of LED lamps for residential consumers has steadily declined. 60W LED lamps can be purchased at many big box retailers for $10 or less. LEDs can save 60 percent or more when compared to incandescent bulbs – and last for several years. It should be noted that care should be taken when selecting a bulb for a fixture that uses a dimmer, as not all dimmers will work with LED bulbs. There are also flickering issues with poorly made LEDs.

Heating and air conditioning

The Energy Information Agency estimates that heating and air conditioning account for 22 percent of a typical home’s annual electric bill. Options such as an air source heat pump or a ground source heat pump can be 20 to 45 percent more efficient than the existing heating or cooling system in the average home. However, the upfront cost is often a barrier to adoption.

Simple solutions such as changing air filters at least every three months will increase airflow to rooms, increase the life of the HVAC unit’s motor and improve the air quality of the home. Sealing and insulating ductwork can be completed in a weekend and result in energy savings of up to 20 percent.

By locating and correcting air leaks, you can lessen the amount of work that heating and cooling systems need to do. To locate leaks, walk through your home on a cold day and feel for drafts around exterior doors and windows, electric outlets and entrance points for TV and telephone cables. In basements, target dryer vents, gas lines or any place with an opening in the wall. To fix leaks, apply caulk, spray foam or weather stripping to these areas.

Simple acts, such as cooking outdoors on a hot summer day and keeping curtains closed to keep out summer sun, will keep the interior of the home cooler and reduce the amount of time air conditioning units need to operate.

Appliances and electronics

The appliances and gadgets that make life easier are also the largest users of electricity in our homes. When buying a new appliance, look for the ENERGY STAR label. This simple act can result in 10 to 15 percent more in energy consumption savings. Some states have adopted ENERGY STAR holidays where the sales tax is waived on the purchase of qualifying ENERGY STAR rated appliances.

More simple household tips to boost energy efficiency include:

  • Cleaning lint traps on dryers and not over-drying clothes will save energy and extend the life of your clothes.
  • Replacing worn refrigerator gasket doors will stop cool air from leaking from the refrigerator.
  • Clean refrigerator coils and keep refrigerators away from heat-generating appliances such as an oven.

Home electronics, such as computers, TVs, DVD players and other modern devices, consume power even when turned off. This phenomenon is called parasitic load, and sometimes these devices are referred to by the more playful term, “energy vampire.” According to a study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the average home loses 8 percent of its monthly energy consumption to these energy vampires. A full 75 percent of the power used to run home electronics is consumed when those appliances are turned off, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Cutting off power by using a power strip or a smart strip is the best way to stop this senseless loss of energy.

The best energy efficiency improvements are often the easiest. Turning lights off when leaving a room, sealing windows and doors and cleaning refrigerator coils isn’t as much fun as buying a shiny new appliance. But these simple jobs are proven ways to save energy and increase comfort.

Brian Sloboda is a program manager specializing in energy efficiency for the Cooperative Research Network, a service of the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Social media on ice

Snow, sleet, ice and bitterly cold weather set the stage for a rough week for co-ops across Tennessee. More than 50,000 members were without power at the peak of the event on Tuesday, Feb. 17. Many of our systems took to social media to get information to their members in a timely manner. Below are a few of our favorite posts from the week. Take an extra few minutes to read the supportive comments from co-op members.

 

Co-op members deliver power message

More than 250 members and employees from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives were in Nashville on Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 9 and 10, for the 2015 Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association Legislative Conference. Attendees met with their legislators on Capitol Hill to help them better understand electric cooperatives and the issues that impact rural and suburban Tennessee.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives maintain a visible presence in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to be certain that the interests of co-op members are protected. “We are here to represent rural Tennesseans,” says David Callis, general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

“Our legislators make decisions and pass laws that can have serious consequences for Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and the members that rely on them. It is important that we tell the electric cooperative story and inform and educate legislators on the impacts of proposed legislation.” Attendees reminded legislators that co-ops are not-for-profit, member-owned and –regulated private businesses that impact their communities in many ways.

The primary goal during visits with representatives was to share an opinion by Tennessee’s Attorney General stating that the Tennessee Valley Authority’s regulatory authority extends to pole attachment rates, effectively ending years of debate at the Capitol on a contentious issue. Representatives were asked to support legislation that will limit co-op liability in cases of inverse condemnation. Co-op members also encouraged representatives to back a resolution supporting TVA’s license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for Watts Bar Unit 2.

More than 100 visits were made with members of the House and Senate during the conference. “We discussed important topics that will impact every members’ wallet,” says Mike Knotts, director of government affairs with TECA. “Educated and informed legislators are a key component of low-cost, reliable power, and our members make a powerful impression when they come to Nashville.”

 

Power out for 48,000 members

48,000 Tennessee electric cooperative members with out power following winter storm

Electric cooperatives across southern Tennessee continue to assess damage to their systems following a significant icing event Sunday and Monday, Feb. 15 and 16. More than 48,000 members remain without power Tuesday morning, Feb. 17. Crews from Tennessee co-ops and neighboring states are assisting in the recovery.

“This is a serious situation. We expect dangerously cold weather to remain in Tennessee for several days, so it is important that we restore power as quickly as possible,” says David Callis, executive vice president of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “These lineworkers are going out into some harsh conditions to serve their communities, and they are to be commended.”

Below is a summary of outage counts and assisting crews as of this morning. We expect these details to change rapidly, and we will be posting updates on Facebook and Twitter throughout the day.

APPALACHIAN EC
3,232 members out | Six crews assisting: two from Holston EC; two, Jackson Energy (KY); one, Cumberland RECC (KY); one, South Kentucky RECC (KY)

CANEY FORK EC
8,000 members out | Two crews assisting: one from Plateau EC; one, Tri-County EMC

DUCK RIVER EMC
1
3,079 members out | Nine crews assisting: three from Sequachee Valley EC; one, Fayetteville PU; one, Tri-County EMC; one, Middle Tennessee EMC; two, Joe Wheeler EC (AL), one, Black Warrior EC (AL)

FT. LOUDOUN EC
16,000 members out | Six crews assisting from Central EC (AL)

PICKWICK EC
1,600 members out | 11 crews assisting: five from Gibson EMC; two, Southwest Tennessee EMC; four, Boliver EA

UPPER CUMBERLAND EMC
1,000 members out

VOLUNTEER EC
5,865 members out | One crew assisting from North Georgia EMC

Fight the winter chills

Another colder-than-normal winter is predicted for much of the country this year. Frigid temperatures can cause heating systems to work over time, and since heating and cooling can make up nearly half of your electric bill, you may experience sticker shock when you open that bill. Instead of waiting until after a potentially high bill is in your mailbox, be proactive. There are things you can do now to help ensure you are managing your energy use and spending less.

These simple steps can help you manage your use:

  • Wrap exposed pipes and water heaters that are in unconditioned spaces.
  • Make sure to change your air filter once a month.
  • Keep drapes closed at night and keep those that don’t get direct sunlight closed during the day, too.
  • Keep the fireplace damper closed when it is not in use. Keeping it open can bring cold air into the room.
  • Caulk around the fireplace hearth, and caulk or weather strip around doors and windows.
  • Monitor your electric use. If we’ve had a few days of frigid temperatures, see how you can try to save on days that are milder.
  • Dress for the weather, even if you are inside. Wearing proper clothing like long sleeves and pants, or wrapping up in a cozy blanket will help combat the temptation of bumping up the thermostat.

So, when temperatures fall this winter and you hear your weatherman talking about bringing in pets and plants, take the steps above to help manage your use.

Using the tips above can certainly help you manage your energy use, but your bill may still be higher than normal in winter months. Why?

  • The weather makes a big impact on electric bills, accounting for nearly half of your bill.
  • Even those with the most efficient HVAC systems will see more use in extreme weather.
  • When extreme cold temperatures hit, our heaters work overtime.
  • For example, even if you set your thermostat to our recommended 68 degrees in the winter, when it is 19 degrees outside, your system has to work hard to make up that 49-degree difference.
  • Your heater works harder and cycles on and off more often, making your use much higher. That means your bill will be much higher.
  • Remember, there is value in comfort. For us to be comfortable in our homes, our heaters are going to work harder, but it may be worth the additional cost to you.

Additional tips:

  • Call your local co-op to see what options might be right for you.
  • Speak to one of our energy efficiency experts. They can help you understand how weather and your use patterns affect your bill.

April Lollar writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service organization for the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

NRECA International: Sharing the love

It’s more than just the numbers.

By Zuraidah Hoffman

These days, NRECA International is helping more than 42,000 people in Haiti, 7,000 in Tanzania, four million in the Philippines and more than half a million in Uganda. And hundreds of thousands more thanks to our electric co-op volunteers, donors and supporters. Behind these numbers are families and communities who are beginning a better life. Streets are made safer by streetlights; reading isn’t limited to daytime; doctors have more medicine thanks to refrigeration; and crops are being irrigated not just by Mother Nature, but with the help of powered water pumps. These are simple – yet critical – examples of how strong communities are created and brighter futures are launched.

Over the last 50 years, 110 million women, men and children in 42 developing countries have gained access to safe, reliable and affordable electricity. Over these five decades, the NRECA International team and its partners have developed meaningful relationships in these countries with government officials, community leaders, business owners and families. It’s a critical part in building solid foundations to ensure families and communities have electricity that will last generations.

Today and into the future, the NRECA International team of engineers, economists, country directors, volunteers and donors continue to make these important connections. Relationships are fostered not only to understand energy needs, but what communities must have to step out of subsistence living and be on a more equal playing field with the rest of the world.

Here’s a snapshot of the numbers, and the people behind them:

Haiti: More than 42,000 people

About 36,000 people live and work in northern towns in Haiti where they now have affordable and reliable access to 24/7 electricity, which was not the case two years ago. Today, a new power plant, a more effective distribution grid and power lines, and an established private utility—all managed by NRECA International—provide power to the towns of Caracol, Trou Du Nord, Terrier Rouge, Saint Suzanne and Limonade—and more towns will be added soon. In south Haiti, a new electric co-op was recently born. In early 2013, NRECA International helped establish Coopérative Electrique de l’Arrondissement des Coteaux. Groups of co-op volunteers from NRECA member cooperatives have begun traveling to Coteaux to help more than 6,000 residents benefit from 33 miles of new or upgraded power lines, powered by a solar-diesel hybrid power system.

Tanzania: 7,000 people

Work is underway to bring electricity to thousands of people in Tanzania—many for the first time. Partnering with Tanzania’s Rural Energy Agency (REA), our team is designing two pilot projects that could reduce electrification costs by as much as 50 percent. This means power for more people. And we hope to do more. NRECA International recently completed assessing the potential for rural energy expansion to more off-grid areas and provided recommendations to USAID on how they can work with the REA to make it happen.

Philippines: Four million people

Last year NRECA International began implementing the Philippines Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project. Working with the country’s National Electrification Administration, the project will teach seven electric co-ops how to choose, invest in and use smart grid technology. How will this help? The next time a typhoon wipes out power in remote areas, co-ops will be able to respond efficiently to outages, resulting in more reliable power for the consumers.

Uganda: More than 500,000 people

For the last five years, NRECA International has worked with Uganda’s Rural Electrification Agency to develop a new national strategy to expand electric service to rural households and businesses. Recently, a detailed report was completed with recommendations on how it should be done, including off-grid solar energy solutions for people who live in far-flung areas.

How many people are electric co-ops helping? Hundreds of thousands.

With the electrification of rural America, we are living proof that it starts with power. Power leads to better education, better healthcare, safer streets and economic development. Rural electric co-ops and their volunteers are sharing their knowledge and making lasting connections with communities. Among them are:

  • In November 2014, groups of volunteer linemen traveled to Haiti and Guatemala to build or upgrade power lines. They work for electric co-ops from Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Washington, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Montana, Kentucky, Texas, Minnesota and Utah. And more may be added in the months to come!
  • Chippewa Valley Electric in Cornell, Wis., recently donated 165 transformers to the Power for Progress Program in the Philippines.
  • FEM Electric in Ipswich, S.D. donated a variety of line materials to the electric municipal in Ixcan, Guatemala.
  • Four volunteers from Coweta-Fayette EMC in Palmetto, Ga. traveled to Costa Rica in September to support their sister electric co-op, Coopeguanacaste.

To learn more about how NRECA International improves the quality of life for people around the world, visit www.nrecainternational.coop.

Zuraidah Hoffman writes on international consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nations 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

Geared up for safety

Can you imagine working a job that requires you to lift heavy equipment and perform detailed tasks near deadly high voltage? Now imagine doing this 40 feet in the air, and sometimes, in extreme weather. This is the life of a lineman.

These brave men, and women, answer when called – and they do so to ensure that you are provided with safe, reliable electric service. But how do they stay safe when working in these conditions? Tennessee electric cooperative linemen are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times when on the job to keep them safe.

Let’s take a look at a lineman’s PPE.

Fire resistant (FR) clothing. While our linemen do everything possible to prevent them, unexpected fires can happen. Fires typically occur with an arc flash – an explosion that results from a low-impedance connection to a ground phase in an electrical system. FR clothing will self-extinguish, thus limiting injury due to burn.

Insulated gloves. Linemen must wear insulated rubber gloves when working on any type of electrical line. These gloves provide protection against electrical shock and burn, and are tested at 30,000 volts. Protective gloves, usually made of leather, are worn over the insulated gloves to protect the rubber from punctures and cuts.

Hard hat. No matter how tough or “hardheaded” our linemen are, they still need protection. Insulated hard hats are worn at all times to protect them from blows and falling objects.

Steel toe boots. These heavy-duty boots are typically 16 inches tall and designed with extra support in mind. The height of the boot shields linemen from gouges, and serrated heels provide a better grip when climbing poles. The steel toe provides sturdier support and protects from objects that could potentially pierce the feet. .

Safety goggles. Linemen must wear protective goggles or glasses, whether working on electrical lines or clearing rights-of-way. This protects them from loose debris and other hazards.

These items make up a lineman’s basic PPE. While working on electrical lines, they also may be required to wear equipment belts, tool pouches, safety straps and other types of equipment. A lineman’s gear usually weighs about 50 pounds – that’s a lot of extra weight when working in hazardous conditions.

So, the next time you see a lineman – be sure to thank him or her for keeping the lights on. But more importantly, thank them for the hard – and often times dangerous – work they do, day in and day out.

Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.