State’s electric cooperatives gather in Nashville for annual event

NASHVILLE – “Building a Brighter Tennessee” was the theme of the 80th annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, held Sunday, Nov. 21, through Tuesday, Nov. 23, in Nashville. More than 350 electric cooperative leaders from across the state attended the event where they explored the impact electric co-ops can have on the future of the people and places they serve.

Gov. Bill Lee also addressed the attendees in a pre-recorded message. “I want to thank you for the important role you play in providing safe, reliable and affordable energy to millions of people in rural Tennessee,” said Gov. Lee. “We appreciate your partnership as we strive to ensure that every Tennessean across the state has access to broadband. Your efforts build on Tennessee’s strong economic development, bringing new jobs and investments and opportunity to our state. I commend you for your work to build a brighter Tennessee.”

“The future is built on the actions of today, and there are few groups investing more in Tennessee’s rural and suburban communities than electric co-ops,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “From energy to education to economic development, I truly believe that the future looks bright for Tennessee’s electric co-ops and the communities they serve.”

Elections were held for three positions on the association’s board of trustees. Dan Rodamaker, president and CEO of Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in Trenton; Russ Dixon, director on the board for Fayetteville Public Utilities; and Juduth Robertson, director on the board for Powell Valley Electric Cooperative in New Tazewell, were elected to four-year terms.

Dave Cross, CEO of Plateau Electric Cooperative in Onieda, was appointed president of the TECA board of trustees. Keith Carnahan, president and CEO of Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in Centerville, was named vice president, and Albert “Buddy” Dicus, director on the board of Caney Fork Electric Cooperative in McMinnville, will continue to serve as board secretary.

“Congratulations to those honored with leadership positions,” says Callis. “Their talents and ideas will be valuable as we continue our mission to serve Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and their members.”

The annual TECA Top Tenn Communications Awards were also presented during the event. Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative received awards for Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section and Best Internal Newsletter. Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative was presented awards for Best Website and Best Use of Social Media. Middle Tennessee Electric was awarded Best Video, and Fayetteville Public Utilities received Best Photo. Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and Middle Tennessee Electric each received two awards in the Wild Card category.

“Keeping co-op members informed is an important part of our work to build a brighter future for our communities,” says Robin Conover, TECA’s vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine. “We congratulate these winners for telling the electric cooperative story in a consistent and professional way.”

Video of this year’s general sessions is available on the TECA website.

The sun has an incredible amount of energy — more than we could ever fully harness. Fortunately, there’s an array of solar-powered gadgets and devices available to help you take advantage of this free source of energy. These technologies are a great way to power everyday things for free by simply using energy from the sun!

When you want to bring your music outdoors, solar-powered Bluetooth speakers are the perfect solution. Many Bluetooth speakers can be recharged with a USB port and electrical outlet, but solar-powered speakers are easily recharged by sunlight. As long as the sun is shining, the speaker will never run out of power. Most solar-powered speakers include a backup battery that allows the speaker to run long after the sun goes down. When shopping for a solar-powered speaker, be sure the speaker can handle the outdoor conditions. For example, if you’re planning to bring the speaker to the beach, make sure it’s water-resistant.

For an easy, low-maintenance approach to light up your lawn and walkways, solar pathway lighting (and other solar décor) is a great addition. Outdoor solar lights come in a variety of styles and can be used to decorate your outdoor space in different ways. They can be used as an alternative to traditional lights and offer several benefits. Once installed, solar lights run on their own and work relatively maintenance-free. Solar lights are powered by batteries that can run all night if the panels receive enough sunlight during the day. Solar lights are wireless, so there’s no need to search for an electrical outlet. You can purchase solar lights for about $5 to $20 depending on the size and design.

If you’re looking to engage your children, there are several DIY kits available for kids to learn more about solar energy. These kits typically include a small solar panel, connecting wires and the end-use device, which varies depending on the kit. From powering a small fan to lighting a lightbulb, these interactive kits provide an educational opportunity for kids to learn more about solar.

As an alternative to a charcoal or gas-powered grill, the solar-powered grill is another great way to cook meals outdoors. One of the most popular solar-powered grills is by GoSun and uses a solar vacuum tube to absorb light while also providing insulation. Using solar heat, the parabolic reflectors focus sunlight onto the vacuum tube. The tube can then convert about 80 percent of the solar energy into heat. There are plenty of occasions for using a solar-powered grill such as traveling, camping or even during a power outage. The internal temperature can typically reach up to 550 degrees while the insulation makes it cool to the touch on the outside — an important safety feature. Prices for solar-powered grills range from $150 to $300, making them comparable to gas-powered grills.

A gadget to help you keep track of time is the solar-powered watch. A small solar cell underneath the dial converts the solar energy into electrical energy, with excess energy stored into the rechargeable battery. As long as the watch receives a moderate amount of sunlight, the battery doesn’t need to be replaced for up to 10 years, which is much more convenient than replacing the battery roughly every year for conventional watches. Solar-powered watches can cost anywhere from $50 to $1,000 depending on their design.

The sun provides an endless amount of energy, and these gadgets are a great way to power everyday devices. As more solar-powered technologies are developed, you may find yourself considering a solar-powered gadget for your next purchase.

Maria Kanevsky writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

Our use of electricity soars on Thanksgiving Day as we draft our oven, stove, refrigerator and even our heating system into overdrive as we spend extra time cooking and invite family into our homes.

Don’t spoil the holiday fun worrying about energy costs. Instead, make an effort to conserve energy even as you overuse your appliances, lights and heat. Here are some tips:

  • If your dining room has an older chandelier that doesn’t use CFLs, dim the brightness by at least 10 percent. If it doesn’t have a dimmer switch, install one.
  • Cook as many dishes at the same time as possible. Put two or three dishes in the oven together if their recipes call for the same temperature. That way, you can turn the oven off sooner.
  • Lower your home’s thermostat before you put the turkey in the oven. The heat that the oven and stovetop will emit — along with the heat that having extra people in the house creates — will keep your home warm enough without cranking up the thermostat, even if it’s cold outside.
  • Cook what you can in the microwave or slow cooker. They use less energy than the oven.
  • Use the dishwasher instead of cleaning the dinner dishes by hand. Dishwashers use less energy and water than washing by hand.

They’re right around the corner! Along with all the fun and family time that the holidays bring, come situations where electrical safety can be a concern.

To make sure you enjoy an injury-free Thanksgiving and Christmas, Tennessee’s electric co-ops offer these safety reminders for the upcoming season.

A lot of people begin putting up holiday lights right after Thanksgiving — or even before! Be sure to inspect your indoor and outdoor light strands for broken sockets, frayed wires and loose connections. If it’s time to replace your old lights with new ones, look for ones that have been approved by nationally recognized testing labs — and only buy from reputable retailers. If your philosophy is ‘the more lights, the better,’ avoid overloading outlets. And make sure you use the right kind of light strand for the right application. Lights rated for indoor use only feature a green holographic mark on the tag next to the plug, while a red mark indicates the lights are safe for both indoor and outdoor use. Outdoor lights should be plugged into ground fault circuit interrupter outlets. Use only heavy-duty extension cords outside, making note of the wattage rating of the cord as well as the power requirements of the lighted decorations you’re planning to plug into it. If you need a ladder to hang your lights, use one that is made of a nonconductive material like wood or fiberglass — just to be on the safe side. And always unplug that amazing light display before you leave home or go to bed.

Because this is the time of year when portable electric space heaters are often being turned on for the first time since last winter, co-ops urge members to use them wisely. Always plug space heaters into a wall outlet — not a power strip. Make sure space heaters are placed on the floor at least three feet away from flammable objects. If you’re in the market for a new heater, look for UL-approved units that offer built-in shutoffs that automatically cut the power if they are tipped over or become too hot. And last but not least, never leave a space heater running in a room unattended. That way, if anything should go wrong, you can take action quickly.

Finally, it makes sense to be extra-aware of kitchen safety this time of year. With family coming to celebrate around the holiday table, your kitchen appliances are likely to be getting a workout. Always have someone on duty when cooking is underway; accidents can happen when stove burners or the oven is left unattended. Keep pot holders, dish towels and other flammable items away from heat sources. It should go without saying, but for those folks who opt for a deep-fried Thanksgiving turkey, never use an outdoor frying setup indoors — no matter how cold it is outside!