Ready To Respond

Minnkota and its members prepare for winter demand response, estimate normal control hours

Northerners remember the January 2019 polar vortex unkindly – cars that wouldn’t start, wind that hurt the skin and dangerous overnight lows.

Fortunately for Minnkota Power Cooperative’s service territory of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, including Nodak Electric Cooperative, homes and businesses stayed warm as the power stayed on. Energy teams were able to balance overwhelming electricity needs across the region by leveraging the energy market and demand response – a technique that allows a cooperative to temporarily interrupt service to a member’s off-peak loads (electric heating, large-capacity water heaters, electric vehicle chargers, etc.) in exchange for a lower electric rate.

“If you have a polar vortex where there’s no wind, or the temperatures are so cold that the wind isn’t generating, that is going to result in demand response,” explained Todd Sailer, Minnkota senior manager of power supply & resource planning. Sailer added that wind generators start to shut down somewhere between 20 and 25 below zero, temperatures that the entire Midwest experienced for multiple days.

“The cold temperatures were over a wider area of the country, which put additional stress on our system. That led to higher electrical needs, which resulted in higher energy costs across the region,” Sailer said. “Our demand response program was very helpful in the ability for us to not only manage our costs, but also our consumer electricity needs during widespread emergency weather conditions.”

Every winter is different, but the planning team projects this year will bring a normal 200-250 hours of estimated demand response. Minnkota is typically able to cover its demand with its own energy resources. However, there are times during planned generator outages, extreme weather events or low wind supply that Minnkota must buy power.

“When the market prices are high, that’s when we initiate demand response. We’re doing it to keep costs down,” Sailer said.

The demand response system was established to avoid building more generation facilities for peak need that only comes a few times a year. That, in turn, keeps rates low for consumers. By being a part of the off-peak load control program, consumers can also take advantage of an even lower electric rate without any disruption in comfort.

Prepare for the heating season

Sailer says those on the off-peak program need to check their backup heating sources to make sure their fuel tanks are full and functioning. Minnkota will run a demand response test in early December, and members should reach out their power providers with any questions or concerns before extreme weather hits.

“The polar vortex showed that you need to make sure your systems are working properly so that when we end up in those events, everybody is able to get through it safely and without too much inconvenience,” Sailer said.

Notice to off-peak members

The off-peak program is designed to reduce electric load during peak demand times and pass energy savings on to participating members by controlling electric home heating and water heating equipment.

If during the heating season you experience a control event that seems excessively long or have no hot water, please be sure to give us a call first to determine if further help is needed.

To know if load is being controlled, visit our website at www.nodakelectric.com, click on “Energy Information” from the home page and then the link “Load Management Status”. When viewing the Last Switching Status graph, cells that are the color green indicating “on” means there is no load control activity, and red cells with “off’ indicate load is being controlled.

If you have any questions, please call 1-800-732-4373 or 701-746-4461.

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Thank You For Your Membership

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

In the spirit of this quote by author William Arthur Ward, I’d like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for your membership in our electric cooperative. Because of your connection to Nodak Electric, we are able to make our community a better place.

I generally use this space to provide updates on the goings-on at Nodak, and report on the progress of our activities. We share these updates so that all of our member-owners have a window into our priorities, progress and challenges. However, during this season of giving thanks, I think it’s equally important to let you and other member-owners of Nodak Electric know just what impact you have on our co-op and the greater community, likely in ways you may not even realize.

As part of our cooperative business model, one of our core principles is “Concern for Community.” While our priority is always to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy, we view our role in the community as a catalyst for good.

We work with local colleges to award scholarships to future lineworkers, and with local high schools to participate in an annual youth tour where we take our area’s brightest young people to Washington, D.C., for a weeklong immersion to experience democracy in action. The trip is inspirational for many students, and we are both humbled and honored to be part of this leadership development journey. Ultimately, the larger community benefits from these programs because of you. You empower the co-op through your membership.

As a local business, we have a stake in the communities we serve. That is why we support local activities and work to make a difference in people’s lives through programs like Operation Roundup. Operation Roundup has donated $933,481 to individuals and organizations in our area since it began in 2000. When you support these efforts, you are supporting our local communities and making them better places to live for everyone.

When you attend co-op events, alert us to problems, or provide suggestions, you help us improve operations and thereby better serve the larger co-op membership.

Because we are locally governed by members of our community, we are able to get a firsthand perspective on community priorities, thereby enabling us to make more informed decisions on long-term investments.

We are thankful that our co-op board members carve out time to attend important training sessions, participate in planning meetings and keep abreast of industry trends. This investment in time results in better informed advisors that serve the co-op’s interest in a way that our member/owners expect and deserve.

On a more personal note, we appreciate the countless acts of kindness our lineworkers and other employees receive when they are working in severe weather and dangerous conditions. Our employees are thankful for your patience and consideration when we’re trying to restore power during challenging situations and prolonged periods.

Nodak Electric was originally established almost 80 years ago to bring electricity to our area when no one else would. The cooperative is a reflection of our local community and its evolving needs. Together, let’s continue making our corner of the world a better place. We can’t do it without you, and for that, we are thankful for your membership.

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New Look. New Experience. Same SmartHub.

Nodak Electric Cooperative’s SmartHub mobile app provides many features that help you manage your account, from billing and payment info to detailed usage analysis. It’s a great tool to help you access your account information on the go.

This past month, Nodak rolled out a new upgrade for the SmartHub mobile application that will help you get to the features you need quickly and efficiently.

First, you’ll notice the mobile app will have a fresh, new look. When you open the app, you’ll be able to see your usage analysis right up front, or you can contact us with the click of a button right from the home screen.

Member alerts will also be displayed right on the home screen, making it easy for us to communicate important information to you. Billing, payment and other features are available with one click of a button in a new condensed menu.

Simply log on to your existing SmartHub app for the upgrade, or if you are interested in accessing SmartHub, download it from your favorite app store. We hope these app updates will help provide a more user-friendly and efficient experience. All of the features you love about SmartHub now will still be available, just with a refreshed look and an enhanced user experience.

We are excited about the new changes and hope you check out the app soon! New look. New experience. Same SmartHub.

SmartHub Mobile 3.0 will automatically occur on your mobile devices using at least Android 5.0 or iOS 9.0. Users with a lower version will stay on the current SmartHub mobile version 2.42.

Payment scheduling available in SmartHub

Paying your monthly electric bill is even more convenient on the mobile app! Cooperative members can now schedule their payment in SmartHub. This feature allows users to select one or more days to make a non-recurring payment.

Step by Step Guide:
1. Log in to SmartHub.
2. Click on the ‘Pay’ icon.
3. On the ‘Payment Details’ page as shown, in the ‘Choose Payment Date’ section, click in the field labeled ‘Other.’
4. Choose your payment date on the calendar that appears. The amount you enter in ‘Payment Amount’ field will be applied on the selected date.

Users may also continue with option to choose same day or specified due date for payment.

If you have any questions concerning this new feature or the app, please give our member service representatives a call at 701-746-4461 or 1-800-732-4373.

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Electrical Equipment Is Never In Season

As various North Dakota hunting seasons approach, please remember that electrical insulators, conductors and electrical equipment are NOT on the hunting season list. Nodak Electric Cooperative encourages hunters to be aware of electrical equipment while enjoying the great outdoors this season.

Hunters and other gun owners should not shoot near or toward power lines, power poles and substations. A stray bullet can cause damage to equipment, could be deadly to the shooter, and potentially interrupt electric service to large areas.

Be aware of what’s behind that big buck or it might cost big bucks. Repairs can be costly and damages cause outages to our members. As a nonprofit cooperative, owned by the members, we all share in this expense.

We recognize the majority of hunters practice safe hunting and understand the potential risks when discharging a firearm. We encourage experienced hunters who are familiar with the area to identify the locations of utility properties and equipment to young or new hunters in their group and remind them to avoid shooting toward these facilities. Enjoy the great outdoors safely.

Hunting Safety Tips
  • Do not shoot at or near power lines or insulators.
  • Familiarize yourself with the location of power lines and equipment on land where you shoot.
  • Damage to the conductor can happen, possibly dropping a phase on the ground. If it’s dry and the electricity goes to ground, there is the possibility of electrocution and fire.
  • Be especially careful in wooded areas where power lines may not be as visible.
  • Do not use power line wood poles or towers to support equipment used in your shooting activity.
  • Take notice of warning signs and keep clear of electrical equipment.
  • Do not place deer stands on utility poles or climb poles. Energized lines and equipment on the poles can conduct electricity to anyone who comes in contact with them, causing shock or electrocution.
  • Do not shoot at or near birds perching on utility lines. That goes for any type of firearm, including pistols, rifles or shotguns.
  • Do not place decoys on power lines or other utility equipment. Anything attached to a pole besides utility equipment can pose an obstruction – and a serious hazard – to electric cooperative employees as they perform utility operations.
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Minnkota’s Blink Outage Mitigation A Success

Now that Minnkota is five years into its accelerated plan to address blink outage issues on its power delivery system, the impact of the mitigation strategy is becoming clearer.

The member cooperatives and Northern Municipal Power Agency participants are seeing blink outages reduced by an average of 50% on treated lines.

“We have seen some circuits that have been reduced by as much as 75%,” said Evan Edwards, Minnkota engineer. “Circuits that are located in open prairie terrain have seen the largest positive impact so far.”

Minnkota’s open prairie line sections tend to have a higher exposure to lightning and wildlife, along with insulator contamination due to dust and blowing conditions. Technologies have been installed on structures across Minnkota’s 2,100-mile subtransmission system to address these issues. By 2020, Minnkota will have performed blink mitigation on more than 1,200 miles of those 69-kilovolt (kV) structures.

While it is virtually impossible to completely eliminate all blink outages, installing the mitigation measures has proven to be a cost-effective way for Minnkota to improve reliability and service to the membership. Structures are being fitted with a hanging lightning arrester, a polymer post-top insulator, a raptor deterrent (pole helmet) and a climbing animal deterrent (pole wrap).

“All aspects of the blink mitigation process have contributed to the positive impacts, but the most impactful changes seem to be the new post top, pole helmet and pole wrap,” Edwards said.

Minnkota crews and contractors have been working safely and efficiently as they move from pole to pole along the power delivery system. In some cases, the lines remain energized while the work is being completed so that service is not interrupted to the member-consumers. Specialized equipment is used to complete this “live line” work.

About 200 miles of lines have been treated this year. The same number of miles has been targeted for 2020, which is planned to be the final year of major blink outage mitigation efforts. The focus is beginning to shift toward a structured program to rebuild aging lines across the system.

A significant portion of Minnkota’s subtransmission system has aged beyond its 50th year of service. While progress has been made to lower blink outage exposure, expectations from consumers continue to rise. This is primarily driven by the fact that today’s electronics require a constant, uninterrupted supply of power to run properly.

In the past, a blink would occur and often go unnoticed to the average consumer because there were no digital displays that needed to be reset afterward. Today, each blink outage is documented by the flashing “12:00.”

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Daily Cycling Of Electric Storage Heat To Begin In late October

Members heating with electric thermal storage, such as thermal storage room units, thermal storage furnaces or slab/in-floor heating, should turn on their heating system prior to Oct. 15 to allow a heat reservoir to build up before daily cycling of loads begins. The actual date cycling begins varies each season. Thermal storage heating is controlled each day from 7 a.m. to noon and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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Electric Transportation Celebration

Minnkota’s Grand Forks campus was charged up Aug. 7-8, introducing local leaders and the public to the present and future potential of driving electric. The events revolved around a two-day visit from the West Fargo Public Schools (WFPS) all-electric Blue Bird school bus, purchased by the school district earlier this year.

Electric Bus or Bust

The morning of Aug. 7, Minnkota (Nodak’s wholesale power provider) invited its employees and visiting representatives to tour the electric bus, ask the mechanic questions about its capabilities and take a short ride around town. Passengers experienced the surprisingly quiet and zippy ride of the 70-seat bus, which boasts a 120-mile range and zero emissions.

That afternoon, Minnkota welcomed city leaders, economic development groups, universities and public schools, transportation officials, lawmakers and others to check out the bus themselves. They came with many insightful questions about what it takes to incorporate an electric bus into a standard fleet and walked away with new transportation ideas for their organizations and neighborhoods.

Plugged In to the Future

On Aug. 8, Minnkota’s visitor parking lot was packed with powerful plug-in cars, a battery-boosted bus and bikes, special guests and giveaways.

More than 275 people popped by the cooperative for “Plugged In to the Future” – a “Back to the Future”-inspired celebration of electric transportation co-hosted by Nodak Electric. The event was the first of its kind in the Greater Grand Forks community and drew more than a dozen electric vehicle (EV) owners from around North Dakota and Minnesota, all of them thrilled to showcase their cars and answer questions for those interested in Teslas, Chevy Bolts, plug-in hybrids and other models.

One driver from Dickinson, N.D., traveled more than 350 miles in his Tesla Model S to take part and offered rides to curious attendees.

“Plugged In to the Future” featured the WFPS all-electric school bus, electric bike demonstrations provided by Scheels and an EV ride-along experience.

For prospective EV owners, Rydell Cars was on-site with a couple of hybrids from their sales lot and details on what additional EV models are available. Information was also provided on home charging incentives and the easy steps involved in getting a garage EVready.

A Drive Electric North Dakota representative drove a Tesla Model X – aptly named WATTS – from Bismarck and chatted with event-goers about the public charging stations in the state, as well as the opportunities for growing EV adoption in the next few years.

Organizers urged attendees to fill out a survey after the event to assess what they learned about electric vehicles. Nearly 99% of respondents said they felt more knowledgeable about EVs after the event and 91% said they were now more open to owning an EV of their own.

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Scam Alert

Local and national headlines are hard to miss; scam attempts are still on the rise. Whether by phone, email or door-to-door, criminals continue to target individuals within our communities, including Nodak Electric members.

The most common scam attempt is a threatening phone call stating your electric service is in immediate danger of being disconnected. The caller associates themselves with Nodak Electric, or another local utility, and warns the individual that a payment must be made immediately to avoid a disconnection of service. Various payment options, including prepaid credit cards and other personal information, are requested within a short window, usually a few minutes, or the service will be shutoff.

The scams are effective when they create a sense of urgency and catch you off-guard in a quick moment of panic. In that brief moment of panic, individuals have been lured into providing credit card and other personal information. Unfortunately, it is often tough for law enforcement to recover any lost money.

Remember this important information to prevent yourself from falling victim to a utility scam:

  • Nodak Electric will never call to demand instant payment or ask for personal information.
  • A mailed notice will be sent advising of an overdue account, followed by a courtesy call.

If you are ever unsure of the status of your account or the party you are speaking with, hang up and call the cooperative immediately. Cooperative representatives are readily available to you by calling 1-800-732-4373.

You can also quickly check the status of your account easily from SmartHub. Here you can check your account balance, make payments and set up alerts that will notify you when you have an overdue balance. SmartHub is an online solution to access your Nodak account via computer or smart device (such as tablet or cell phone) anytime and anywhere.If you have a question or need help, please contact us.

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Electric Off-peak Heat Rates Begin Oct. 1

Members with subtractive or separately metered off-peak electric heating systems will be charged the applicable off-peak rate for energy usage beginning Oct. 1. The off-peak rates will continue to be charged for energy usage through May 31, 2020. Current off-peak rates are $0.062/kWh for long-term and $0.077/kWh for short-term controlled systems (price includes the $0.004/kWh renewable energy market adjustment charge). It is a good idea to inspect, clean and test your heating system before cold weather arrives. Please check to make sure all of your electric heat circuit breakers are on prior to Oct. 1.

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A New Bill Design Coming At You!

Your Nodak Electric bill will soon take on a new and improved look. A simplified layout will make your bill easier to understand, while electricity usage charts will give you more insight into how weather and habits contribute to your bill.

How to read your new electric bill:

1. Your account number, statement date and past due date are provided with a summary of existing charges.

2. This section will contain important information regarding your bill along with useful tips from Nodak Electric.

3. This section expands upon your service summary, including account details and a breakdown of your energy and demand charges. Additional charges or credits will appear in this section.

4. A history chart provides an easy way to compare how electricity was used from month to month and to the previous year with usage, temperature and cost averages.

5. Paying by U.S. mail? Be sure to include the bottom portion of your bill with the appropriate side facing out.

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Be Prepared For Summer Storms

Summer in North Dakota means thunderstorms can quickly grow dangerous. When these storms hit, make sure you’re ready for any situation.

Be prepared

Phone numbers help Nodak respond to your location when you report an outage. Call 800-732-4373 to update the phone number(s) on your account.

Stay safe

Stay away from downed power lines, trees and branches caught in power lines and water in contact with electrical outlets, sockets or lines. If you see a downed power line, keep your distance and call Nodak at 800-732-4373.

Be patient

Please be aware that time of restoration can vary based on weather and outage cause. Please know that Nodak crews are working as quickly as possible to restore power. We appreciate your patience!

Stay informed

Stay informed of outage details on our outage map or on our Facebook page. Report outages by calling 800-732-4373.

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Grand Forks Central Student Joins Hundreds Of Co-op Peers For Washington, D.C. Experience

More than 1,800 students from around the country attended the annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour in Washington, D.C. from June 15-21, including Nodak’s own Harrison Stockeland, a junior at Grand Forks Central High School.

Each year, Nodak sponsors one student for the event. Now in its 55th year, the Youth Tour was established to help educate youth about the political process and allow students to visit national monuments and interact with U.S. government officials.

Harrison was motivated to apply for the Youth Tour to learn more about Washington and to meet other students. “It was truly a magical experience, meeting new people from lots of different states. I made an uncountable number of friends and a few who will be friends for life,” Harrison said.

Students toured the National Museum of the Marine Corps and the Smithsonian museums, cruised down the Potomac on a riverboat and visited Arlington National Cemetery, the National Archives, the Holocaust Museum and Gettysburg National Military Park. Th e group had opportunities to explore the East Wing of the White House and saw all the major monuments, including the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and more.

Tour participants also enjoyed a Capitol Hill Day, during which they toured the Capitol and met with Rep. Kelly Armstrong, Sen. John Hoeven and a representative for Sen. Kevin Cramer.

Along with touring Washington, D.C. and visiting the White House, all Youth Tour students gathered for Rural Electric Youth Day to hear featured Grand Forks Central student joins hundreds of co-op peers for Washington, D.C. experience speakers provide insight on the important roles electric cooperatives play in their communities. They participated in a pin-trading event, where trading state pins with other students from other states helped them to meet new people.

Harrison has traveled to Washington, D.C. before, but the idea of a cooperative was new to him.

“I didn’t know much about electric cooperatives,” he said. “I thought that electric cooperatives just provided power, but we had a speaker who was a lineman and he went to Haiti to help set up power in their community. It was awesome to see how passionate he was about helping. Th at is what cooperatives are about – community.”

Harrison said he enjoyed the entire trip, but the highest point was the people.

“It truly was all that I was told it would be,” he said, “and more!”

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