Gibson EMC Board Members Steve Sanders and Rana Buchanan recently earned Director Gold Certificates through NRECA’s new certification program. Director Gold demonstrates a director’s ongoing commitment to advancing skills and knowledge. Sanders has been on the Gibson EMC board of trustees for 15 years and has served as chairman since 2014. Buchanan has been on the board for nearly 13 years. Click to learn more about Director Certification or view upcoming classes in Tennessee.

When winter temperatures drop and storms hit, it can be challenging to stay safe and warm. Winter storm severity varies depending on where you live, but nearly all Americans are affected by extreme winter storms at some point. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives care about your safety, and we want you to be prepared.

Heavy snow and ice can lead to downed power lines, leaving co-op members without power. During extremely low temperatures, this can be dangerous. During a power outage, our crews will continue to work as quickly and safely as possible to restore power, but there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself.

Stay warm

Plan to use a safe alternate heating source, such as a fireplace or wood-burning stove during a power outage. These are great options to keep you and your loved ones warm, but exercise caution when using, and never leave the heating source unattended. If you are using gasoline-, propane- or natural gas-burning devices to stay warm, never use them indoors. Remember that fuel- and wood-burning sources of heat should always be properly ventilated. Always read the manufacturer’s directions before using.

Stay fed

The CDC recommends having several days’ supply of food that does not need to be cooked handy. Crackers, cereal, canned goods and bread are good options. Five gallons of water per person should also be available in the event of an extended power outage.

Stay safe

When an outage occurs, it usually means power lines are down. It is best not to travel during winter storms, but if you must, bring a survival kit along, and do not travel alone. If you encounter downed lines, always assume they are live. Stay as far away from the downed lines as possible, and report the situation to your local co-op.

Winter weather can be unpredictable and dangerous, and planning ahead can often be the difference between life and death. Tennessee’s electric co-ops are ready for what Mother Nature has in store, and we want you to be ready, too. For more winter safety tips, visit www.ready.gov/winter-weather.

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.

20 years of Service to Co-op Members

New Market, TN: AEC has announced the retirement of Director Doris Sharp, effective January 5, 2016. Mrs. Sharp represented District 1 of the Co-op Service area and faithfully served the membership for over 20 years, being first elected in October 1995. She held the position of Vice President of the AEC Board from 2002-2013 and was the Board’s Safety Committee chairwoman for many years. Sharp completed her Credentialed Cooperative Director training as well as her Board Leadership Certification from NRECA. She recently earned the Director Gold Certificate, recognizing her for additional leadership skills.

During her tenure on the Board she provided excellent wisdom and vision, and was deeply committed to her responsibilities and duties. She was always very supportive of Co-op employees and their safety and education training. During her service, AEC grew from 33,250 members to over 45,700.

Mrs. Sharp was a business woman and the owner of the local Hallmark store in Jefferson City for many years. She will be dearly missed by the Cooperative and is greatly appreciated for her service to the membership.

Have you ever received a notification from the folks here at your local electric cooperative informing you of a “planned outage?” You may have wondered, “what is a planned outage?” and “why does my electric utility need to perform one?” Occasionally, the equipment we use to bring power to your home needs to be replaced, repaired or updated. When this happens, as a way to keep our crews and you safe, we plan an interruption to electric service.

We do our best to plan these outages during times when you will be least inconvenienced, so we often perform planned outages during school and business hours. We also try to avoid planning these outages during winter or summer months. We understand these are peak times of the year when you depend on running your heating and cooling units the most.

While they may sound slightly inconvenient, planned outages are actually beneficial to you, our members. Regular system upgrades are necessary for optimal performance, and they increase reliability. Repairing and upgrading our equipment is also critical to maintaining public safety. If older lines need to be replaced, we plan for it, repair or replace it, and that keeps everyone safe.

Planned outages also allow us to keep you informed of when and how long you will be without power. We can notify you long before an outage, so you can be prepared. We also keep you aware of when line crews will be working in your area.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives want to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep you safe and to keep our systems running smoothly. So, the next time you hear about a planned outage, know that it is one of the best ways we can provide you with quality electric service.

Meghaan Evans 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.

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.

David Callis
Executive Vice President and General Manager

“Safe, reliable and affordable.” That’s a phrase you hear from us quite a bit. It accurately describes the commitment we make to you every day. We make every effort to ensure that the power you need is safely and reliably delivered to your homes and businesses. And we do so as cost-effectively as possible.

Here’s another term you don’t hear as much but that’s just as important — if not more so:

Resiliency.

Ten years ago, a large hurricane hit the Gulf Coast. By most measures, it was the most devastating storm to strike the United States. Hurricane Katrina killed nearly 2,000 people. With the widespread damage from the storm and subsequent flooding, it impacted some 90,000 square miles along the Gulf of Mexico.

More than 75 percent of New Orleans was underwater at one point in time. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated. Homes and businesses were submerged, and the areas that weren’t flooded had no electricity.

Entergy, an investor-owned utility, serves the city of New Orleans. Much of the surrounding area along the coast is served by electric cooperatives. For several weeks, linemen from utilities across the nation left their homes to help restore and rebuild the critical infrastructure.

The massive coordination effort to rebuild thousands of miles of wire and replace tens of thousands of poles required Herculean efforts by electric utilities. You can’t plan for a disaster of that magnitude. We can, and do, prepare for emergencies, but we can’t outguess Mother Nature. Even with the best forecasting, hurricanes, tornadoes and ice storms often make unpredictable, last-minute variations that defy the best-laid plans for disaster response. In fact, you might not recall that Hurricane Rita hit the Gulf Coast about a month after Katrina, causing damage to some of the same areas that were still recovering.

I was in New Orleans a few weeks before Katrina and later helped coordinate some of the relief efforts that Tennessee’s cooperatives mounted. I’ve returned to the Gulf several times over the past few years, including earlier this year. A full decade later, the impact is still apparent in many areas. Parts of New Orleans and other areas of the Gulf Coast are, unbelievably, still recovering from the devastation.

For someone who has worked for decades in the electric utility industry, two things stand out. First and foremost is the resiliency of the residents. Despite losing their homes and nearly losing their lives, they refuse to abandon their neighborhoods.

This type of courage is similar to a prizefighter who is battered by a bigger opponent but stubbornly refuses to go down. The men and women who survived Katrina continue to thrive and continue with their lives. They refuse to be defeated.

The same resiliency can be said about the electric grid and those who maintain it. Imagine building a structure that costs millions of dollars and takes years to complete. Then, in a matter of hours, you see it crumble to the ground under the force of a powerful storm.

How do you handle that type of challenge? If you’re a lineman, you pack a bag, say goodbye to your family and get to work rebuilding. It might take several days or even weeks, but you stay with it until the job is done.

The event could be a Hurricane Katrina, an EF-4 tornado or a midwinter ice storm. No matter what the challenge, the resiliency of the electric grid is as strong as the character of the men and women who build and maintain it.

It’s what we’ve done for the past 80 years and will continue to do well into the future.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

(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.

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.

 

TVA President Bill Johnson met with Caney Fork EC directors and staff on Thursday, April 2. Johnson shared his background and vision for TVA –  controlling costs to provide efficient, affordable power for the Valley. He answered questions about the coal ash cleanup project at Kingston Fossil Plant and economic development.

TVA-Visit-3“We value our relationship with TVA, and we appreciate Mr. Johnson’s willingness to meet with us,” says Bill Rogers, general manager of Caney Fork EC. “TVA shares our commitment to public power, and our members are best served when Caney Fork and TVA work together to provide them with affordable and reliable service.”

Following his visit to Caney Fork EC, Johnson spoke to the McMinnville Rotary Club.