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.

The electric grid connects us all

The energy industry is in the midst of an unprecedented period of transition. As this energy revolution unfolds, a modern, interconnected and reliable electric grid has never been more important.

In April, Elon Musk, the charismatic billionaire CEO of Tesla, introduced a new lithium ion battery called the PowerWall. In typical fashion for this brash tech entrepreneur, Musk paints a rosy picture of a future where homeowners disconnect from the power grid and meet all their power needs through a combination of rooftop solar and battery storage.

It’s exciting to imagine a future where renewable energy systems will allow us to generate and store electricity in a reliable and cost-effective way. Though there are many working hard to realize that goal – including electric cooperatives – it is still a long way from reality.

Unlike gasoline or propane, electricity is a form of energy that is difficult to store in large quantities. Batteries can hold enough energy to power small devices for moderate amounts of time, but current battery technology cannot practically and economically store enough energy to power larger items like appliances and TVs for longer durations.

We don’t know when the cost, size, quality and reliability of battery storage will improve to the point that it becomes a viable option to help meet our energy needs. If/when that happens, it has the potential to transform countless aspects of our lives, from our smartphones to our cars to our electric system.

The lack of a viable option for large-scale energy storage creates another challenge for power companies. Electricity supply and demand must always be perfectly matched.

If you’re a farmer, imagine what your job would be like if you couldn’t store your product – not even for a short period of time until a truck could come to pick it up. Imagine if the grain you grow or the milk your cows produce had to instantly go from harvest to consumption. Lastly, imagine that the demand for your product never stops and varies wildly throughout the day, but you always had to produce the exact right amount with no shortages or overages. That’s what electric cooperatives do every day to keep the lights on.

To meet this challenge, power companies rely on a complex and interconnected electric grid to deliver power to homes and businesses across America the instant that it’s needed. The electricity powering the lamp that you’re using to read this article was generated a fraction of a second before it was delivered to your home – most likely at a power plant far away from where you live.

These same challenges are true for people who want to generate electricity at their homes or businesses through technologies such as solar panels, small wind turbines and manure digesters that produce methane.

It’s unlikely that the amount of available sunshine, wind or manure is always perfectly matched to your immediate energy needs. Sometimes the sun is shining brightly when nobody is home, but most people still want electricity after the sun goes down. That’s where the electric grid comes into play.

By staying connected to the electric grid, your home is part of a larger system. You can usually feed extra energy back into it when you don’t need it, but more importantly, the grid is there to make sure you always have enough power when you need it.

In addition, the interconnected nature of the grid means that when there’s a problem with a generator on the system – whether that’s a homeowner’s rooftop solar array or a large power plant supplying energy to hundreds of thousands – there are plenty of other generation resources available to step in and quickly meet the need.

In some ways, the electric grid is the ultimate example of a cooperative. Every power company, from electric co-ops to investor-owned utilities to government-run systems, must work together across state lines to ensure there is always enough energy to power our lives.

Electric cooperatives are leaders in the renewable energy revolution. Three of the top four solar utilities in America are electric cooperatives. The vast majority of wind turbines in this country are built in rural areas served by cooperatives. In fact, America’s electric cooperatives support an entire team of researchers who work on issues related to renewable energy, power reliability and future technology.

Great leaders always look to the future but remain grounded in practical reality. Great leaders look out for everybody they serve and strive to ensure their actions will serve the greater good. These are the same qualities that make electric cooperatives special. Though our nation’s energy future is uncertain, there’s no doubt that America’s electric cooperatives are helping to write it – and doing so with our members’ best interests driving every action we take.

Justin LaBerge 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.

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.

Co-op leaders meet with White House officials on efficiency and renewables

(ARLINGTON, VA.) — David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of TECA, was joined by Appalachian Electric Cooperative Manager Greg Williams and North Georgia Electric Membership Corporation Manager Katheryn West today in a meeting with White House officials in Washington, D.C., to discuss recent progress and potential collaboration on efficiency and renewable energy development. The Tennessee co-ops were among 30 cooperatives invited to attend the meeting with officials from the White House Rural Council and the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service.

“We had a productive conversation about how we can build the value of current federal programs and find more opportunities to bring the benefits of new efficiency and renewable energy technologies to our members,” said Callis.

Nationwide co-ops have been rapidly adding renewable energy capacity to the rural electric grid.  The nation’s more than 900 co-ops own or purchase about 16.5 gigawatts of renewable capacity and plan to add 2 GW of capacity in the near future. Cooperatives lead the nation in the development of community solar energy.

In addition to renewable energy development, co-ops are pursuing energy efficiency programs and innovations to help members reduce their bills. TECA is working with its member co-ops to develop a loan program to assist low-income homeowners with efficiency improvements. Tennessee co-ops view efficiency as a key component in a broader strategy to meet the challenges of growing electricity demand and rising costs.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

2015 E&O Conference

TECA and the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives jointly hosted the 2015 Engineering, Operations, and District Managers Conference at the Music Road Hotel and Resort in Pigeon Forge on Thursday and Friday, July 16 and 17. In attendance were 40 Tennessee co-op employees, 38 Kentucky co-op employees and 23 exhibitors. The conference was kicked off by a welcome from Holston Electric Cooperative’s General Manager Jimmy Sandlin. Attendees received industry updates from the Rural Utility Service, Job, Training and Safety, the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.  The West Tennessee fiber network, solar power, building and facility security ArcFlash protection and OSHA regulations were also discussed.

“Attending the E&O meeting is important to stay update on rapidly changing and advancing technology that enhances operations of an electric utility, safety issues and regulations,” said Loyd Muncy, Manager of Finance and Administration for Chickasaw Electric Cooperative. “It is a great opportunity to make connections with knowledgeable peers who may one day help me solve issues at my co-op. “

2015 E&O Conference

TECA and the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives jointly hosted the 2015 Engineering, Operations, and District Managers Conference at the Music Road Hotel and Resort in Pigeon Forge on Thursday and Friday, July 16 and 17. In attendance were 40 Tennessee co-op employees, 38 Kentucky co-op employees and 23 exhibitors. The conference was kicked off by a welcome from Holston Electric Cooperative’s General Manager Jimmy Sandlin. Attendees received industry updates from the Rural Utility Service, Job, Training and Safety, the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.  The West Tennessee fiber network, solar power, building and facility security ArcFlash protection and OSHA regulations were also discussed.

“Attending the E&O meeting is important to stay update on rapidly changing and advancing technology that enhances operations of an electric utility, safety issues and regulations,” said Loyd Muncy, Manager of Finance and Administration for Chickasaw Electric Cooperative. “It is a great opportunity to make connections with knowledgeable peers who may one day help me solve issues at my co-op. “

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.

Help is on the way when you are in the dark

Electric co-ops serve some of the most rugged, remote terrain in the country, covering more than 70 percent of the nation’s landmass, which means we have learned how to restore power in incredibly difficult circumstances. Now, we’re restoring power even faster. Collectively, electric co-ops have reduced the average time without power their consumer-members experience from 142 minutes in 2011 to 105 minutes in 2013 – a 26 percent decline.

Restoring power is a difficult job and must be done safely and strategically. When the lights go out, Tennessee’s electric co-ops must first assess all damage. Power is always safely restored to the greatest number of members in the shortest amount of time possible. Let’s take a look at the power restoration process.

Repair high-voltage transmission lines

Transmission towers and lines deliver high-voltage power from the Tennessee Valley Authority to local substations, which send power to thousands of consumer-members. If these towers or lines are damaged during a powerful storm or natural disaster, they must be repaired before other parts of the system can operate.

Inspect distribution substation

Distribution substations receive high-voltage power from transmission lines then disperse the power at a lower voltage to the co-op’s main distribution lines. Depending on your electric co-op’s service territory, distribution substations can serve either hundreds or thousands of members. When a major power outage occurs, the co-op’s line crews inspect the substation to determine if the problem stemmed from the transmission lines feeding into the substation, the substation itself or if the problem is further down the line.

Check main distribution lines

If the problem cannot be isolated at a distribution substation, the main distribution lines are checked next. These are the lines you’re most likely familiar with. Distribution lines carry power to large groups of members in your electric co-op’s service territory.

Examine supply and service lines

If local outages persist, supply lines, also known as tap lines, are examined next. These lines deliver power to transformers that are either mounted on poles or placed on pads for underground service. Supply lines can be found outside of homes, businesses and schools. Occasionally, damage will occur on the lines between the nearest transformer and your home. Has your neighbor ever had power when you were left in the dark? This means damage occurred on the service line closest to your home. When the problem is on the service line, it may take line crews additional time to restore power. Remember, power is restored to the greatest number of members in the shortest amount of time possible.

As you can see, restoring power after a major outage is a big job and involves much more than simply flipping a switch or removing a tree from a damaged line. In the event of an outage, your local line crews will restore power as quickly and safely as possible.

 

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.

 

Stay safe in the great outdoors this summer

Summer is in full swing, and that means it is time for fun in the sun! As you find yourself spending more time outdoors, Tennessee’s electric cooperatives remind you to stay safe.

Planning a home improvement project? When working outdoors, you may be using tools, such as ladders, power tools, shovels – or even paintbrushes with extendable arms. These items help you get the job done but have the potential to be dangerous if used improperly.

Pay attention to where you place metal ladders or dig for fence posts. Before you start any project, always look up and avoid overhead power lines. Keep a minimum of 10 feet between you and overhead lines.

If you are planning a project that requires digging, remember to dial “811” first to find out if the area you will be working in is clear of underground power lines. Power tools should be kept away from wet surfaces, and outlets should not be overloaded.

Exploring the great outdoors is a great way to spend time with the family, but keep these safety tips in mind.

Children should never climb trees near power lines – always assume a wire is live. Fly kites and remote controlled-airplanes in large open areas like a park or a field, safely away from trees and overhead power lines.

Planning to take a dip in the pool? Electrical devices, such as stereos, should be kept at least 10 feet away from water sources, and outdoor electrical outlets should always be covered. If you hear a rumble of thunder, exit the pool right away.

Speaking of thunder, summer storms can be dangerous if you’re caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you find yourself outdoors during a storm, move toward suitable shelter with covered sides, and stick to low-lying ground if possible.

These are just a few tips to remember when you are spending time outdoors this summer with your family. Have some fun out there, and always keep safety in mind!

 

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.

 

Callis presents at DOE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, presented today during the Department of Energy’s Clear Path III, a hurricane preparedness and response event and exercise for the energy sector.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives routinely provide assistance to neighboring co-ops in Tennessee and surrounding states following natural disasters. “Cooperation is one of the founding principles of electric cooperatives. It is what makes us different from other utilities,” says Callis. “In the hours and days following a natural disaster, we have a responsibility to act with purpose to restore service to our member-owners. It only makes sense to coordinate our efforts and resources to speed the process.”

Deputy Secretary of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall invited Callis to discuss the electric cooperative mutual aid process as part of a series of information briefs during the event. The objective of Clear Path III is to assess government and industry’s plans, policies and procedures at all levels to identify and improve response efforts.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

 

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Contact:
Trent Scott | Director of Corporate Strategy | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519