Around The Coop: Amundson Retires, Crooks Promoted

Amundson retires

After 29 years of dedicated service to the cooperative, Becky Amundson will retire this month from her position as a Nodak member services representative. Becky began her cooperative career in 1991 at Sheyenne Valley Electric Cooperative (Finley, N.D.) as file clerk and receptionist. In 2001, Sheyenne Valley Electric merged with Nodak Electric and Becky transitioned to the role of member services representative in Grand Forks. She quickly became a go-to source for helping members with billing questions and other general inquiries. Becky is excited for retirement and plans to enjoy spending free time with her family and doing some traveling. Thank you, Becky, for all of your hard work and commitment to our members and the cooperative. You will surely be missed at the office.

Crooks promoted

Rebecca Crooks was promoted to member services representative on September 1. She began her career with Nodak in 2017 as receptionist and her new role will include answering and directing phone calls, assisting with member related issues, account changes, resolving concerns, and processing transactions. Rebecca has strong member services skills and enjoys working with people. Congratulations, Rebecca.

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Get Your Furnace Ready For Winter

Slightly cooler temperatures are settling in and now is a perfect time to make sure that your furnace is ready to go for the long winter ahead. Before you fire it up for the season, it is a good idea to make sure that things are in order. Here are a few tips to get your furnace ready for winter:

Change your air filters

Your air filters are the first line of defense to stop small particles from making their way into your ductwork where they can get trapped and recirculate around your home. The key to saving your furnace from dirt and debris is to change your air filters every few months. Or, if your furnace uses an electrostatic filter, now is a good time to wash it and reuse it. Not only will changing your air filters increase the air quality of your environment, it will reduce wear and tear on your HVAC units to extend their lifespan.

Clean the heat exchanger

If your comment is “what is a heat exchanger?,” then it is time to call a professional. A heat exchanger is the part of your furnace that needs to be cleaned and checked for cracks. If there is something wrong with it or it is dirty, it could unwittingly be leaking carbon monoxide, which is dangerous and can be fatal.

Cover your AC condenser

When you start to use your furnace, you no longer need your air conditioning. Make sure to cover your AC condenser to keep it safe for the months ahead. If you cover it, then it won’t be damaged by anything surrounding it. Just make sure that whatever you cover it with won’t trap in moisture, or you could end up with mold or mildew growth that can do a whole lot of damage.

Inspect your carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors

Make sure to inspect your carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors to ensure that they are working. Since carbon monoxide is an odorless, fatal gas, it is imperative to know that your sensors are working to protect your home and your family. And it’s a good idea to change the batteries in the smoke detectors to ensure they are ready for another year.

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Stable Warmth In Unstable Times

Uncertainty has been the name of the game for much of 2020. But as we slip into the last few weeks of the year, Nodak Electric Cooperative feels certain about one thing – your continued warmth and comfort throughout the winter.

The energy planners at Minnkota Power Cooperative (power provider for Nodak Electric) expect a standard season for members with electric heat on demand response. The voluntary program allows the cooperative to temporarily interrupt service to a member’s off-peak loads, like electric heating and large-capacity water heaters, in exchange for a lower electric rate. For technologies like air-source heat pumps and plenum heaters, the system automatically switches to a backup fuel source such as propane, so there is no break in comfort.

Todd Sailer, Minnkota senior manager of power supply and resource planning, says he expects the level of winter demand response to be comparable to the past 4-5 years – less than 100 hours. Members should always be prepared for up to 200-250 hours of management, but have historically encountered much less. Last winter, Minnkota only logged 10 hours of interruption due mild weather and low wholesale energy prices.

“The only things that are really going to drive that up are a shift in the energy market, which is typically going to be weather related,” Sailer explained. “If you get a polar vortex or a wind event where there’s simply no wind during high loads, that’s where that number suddenly goes from 70 to 250 hours really quick.”

Demand response doesn’t just happen during extreme cold. A planned generator outage or extended lack of intermittent resources across the region can push the program into action. “When we see there’s no wind in North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and those areas where there’s often a lot of wind, that’s when we start to see high markets, and that’s when you’ll see more demand response.” Sailer said.

Although Minnkota expects a typical level of demand response this year, COVID-19 may change when it activates. When more people are working and learning from home, times of peak energy usage shift, which impacts the availability of excess resources to cover energy demand.

“Instead of demand response from 7-9 a.m., it might be from 8-11 a.m.,” Sailer said. “The load curve changes, so it might change how we actually implement our load management.”

Nodak Electric will run a demand response test sometime in early December. During that time, make sure your system is working properly and that you have adequate backup fuel before the coldest days arrive. If you are not a participant in the program but are interested in how to save money with an all season air-source heat pump, a cost-effective plenum heater or zero-maintenance underfloor storage heat, call your energy experts at Nodak Electric.

The demand response program began as a way to manage power during peak seasonal need without building additional generation resources – a costly solution for only a few days a year. But the electric heating technologies that have evolved within the program are helping our members enhance their comfort and safety, things we could all use a little more of in 2020.

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Charged Up Community

It’s not often that the 32nd Avenue Wendy’s parking lot in Grand Forks draws a small crowd of economic leaders, the media and the mayor. However, that was the scene on Oct. 1, when Nodak Electric cut the ribbon on a first-in-the-community electric vehicle (EV) fast charging station.

“This is an important day for electric vehicle drivers in the Greater Grand Forks area and all around our region,” Nodak President & CEO Mylo Einarson told attendees. “As an electric cooperative, we are proud to promote the growth of cleaner, economical electric transportation in our state and beyond.”

The ChargePoint Level 3 DC (direct current) fast charger will deliver a powerful 62.5 kilowatts to EV drivers who park and pay to charge. The project was made possible by Volkswagen settlement money granted by the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, as well as the host-site support of Wendy’s owner Brad Towers. The unit is powered by the wind of the Infinity Renewable Energy Program.

At a maximum charge rate of 250 RPH (miles of range per hour), a driver can be reenergized and road ready in 30-60 minutes. That’s much faster than a standard Level 2 public charger, which would take closer to eight hours. Until now, EV drivers traveling between Winnipeg and Fargo or Minot and Bemidji had no options for a speedy “refuel” during their journey.

Nodak Electric Member/Energy Services Manager Blaine Rekken says the fast charge is just long enough for out-of-towners to grab a meal at a local restaurant or shop at a nearby business – a small boost for the city’s economy.

“Grand Forks has always been a destination city, and now we’re just making it that much more available to the electric vehicle community of users,” he said. “That’s a huge benefit.”

Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, Nodak staff stayed onsite to hand out charger fact sheets and vouchers for a free Wendy’s ice cream to those driving by – an educational effort dubbed “Fast Charge and Frostys.” One attendee was Kyle Thorson, a Grand Forks driver of a Tesla Model S.

“This is huge. You’ve seen fast chargers go up in a lot of cities, and Grand Forks was behind, so I’m happy about this one,” he said. “A lot of Tesla owners come through this direction, trying to go to Winnipeg or other places, and they have an option now, whereas they might have taken a longer route to go through other places before.”

Thorson’s car boasts an all- electric range of 400 miles, but he knows that the anxiety of a depleted battery keeps many from buying EVs in the northern region.

“There have been people who have said, oh, I’d really like one, but I can’t buy it because I don’t know where to charge it, especially in North Dakota,” he said. “This starts to change that landscape a little bit, and it’s obviously a win for everybody.”

In just the first two weeks of activation, before the ribbon had even been cut, the fast charger had already logged 17 charging sessions. It’s an indication that the Nodak station is already filling a need for drivers around the region.

“We are more than selling electrons. We also sell a quality of life. That quality of life is anything from hot water to electric heating to all of the things that make our lives better,” Rekken said. “Electric vehicles are just one of those components to add on.”

If you are interested in owning an EV and would like information on Nodak’s electric vehicle incentives, please click here. 

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A Time For Reflection

The holidays are a time of year that many of us eagerly anticipate. The season is marked by home-cooked meals, seasonal decorations and lots of festivities. In many of our local communities, we look forward to the annual gatherings, light parades and local religious or family traditions. We cherish carrying on old family traditions and enjoy creating new ones. For me personally, I look forward to more time spent with family and friends, and especially this year, ringing in the new year and the promise of new opportunities is something we all will be looking forward to. However, given the hustle and bustle of the season, the holidays can also offer an opportunity to slow down and reflect. For all of us at Nodak Electric, we are grateful for you, the members of the co-op. You see, one of our founding principles as a co-op is “Concern for Community.” While our main focus is providing safe, reliable and affordable energy, we want to give back. We want to help our communities thrive.

Reflection

In looking back at this past year, I’m grateful we were able to make a positive impact in our communities through programs such as Operation Round Up. Thanks to your contributions, we collected $42,646. As a result of your generosity, we were able to help many families, individuals and groups in our local area with the dollars they needed to fulfill critical needs they were unable to fund. We continue to work closely with Bismarck State College to award scholarships for future lineworkers, and with local Dollars for Scholars chapters to award college scholarships for deserving young students heading off to school. In 2020, we awarded $10,000 to students completing the classroom portion of their lineworker training program and $5,000 for incoming college freshmen. There are other ways we can help the community. Whether it’s providing information about our many rebate programs for heating, water heating or electric transportation, helping you find ways to save energy at home, or various options to make it easier to pay your power bill – we want you to know we’re here to help. The holiday season can be a magical time for many of us, but it can also be a difficult time. The added financial pressures that come from this time of year can be especially challenging for those with day-to-day struggles. For those without family or friends to share the holidays, it can be a very trying and lonely time. This holiday season, we think of those having struggles and encourage everyone to extend a helping hand whenever possible. In the end, it is this “Concern for Community” that makes us who we are.

Looking ahead

Looking ahead to 2021, we hope you will share your opinions with us. We recognize that our members have a valuable perspective, and that’s why we continually seek your input. Whether through community events, our social media channels or the annual meeting, we want to hear from you. We are led by you, the members of the co-op, and we depend on your feedback. As we prepare for next year, we look forward to the opportunity to serve you and the greater community. On behalf of the Nodak Electric family, we hope your holidays

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Is Your Off-Peak Heating System Ready For Winter

It’s hard to believe winter is right around the corner. Since weather conditions and future wholesale power market prices make the amount of load control hours hard to predict, all of our off-peak members are encouraged to have a reliable, automatic dual heating system in place and ready to use.

To ensure your total comfort this winter, consider the following questions about your backup heating system:

  1. Is the system sized to heat your entire home or business?
  2. Does it maintain an adequate comfort level?
  3. Is it reliable?
  4. Is it fully automatic?

Check current fuel prices and be sure to fill your propane or fuel oil tank at the beginning of the season. Also, make sure your tank is large enough to hold an adequate supply. Remember, prices typically rise as demand increases during the heating season.

Our member services department is glad to answer any off-peak questions you may have. A loan program is also available to assist you in replacing your old, inadequate off-peak heating system.

If you have any questions regarding off-peak or your electric heating system, please call our Energy Service Department.

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Act Early – Visually Inspect Around Your Transformer

Fall is in the air and outdoor critters are looking for a place to nest for the upcoming winter. Unfortunately, the inside of a transformer makes a great spot – especially if it is already damaged by a lawn care mistake.

Pad-mounted transformers take the place of utility poles and feed underground electrical services to our businesses and homes. They enclose energized electrical conductors and can be hazardous when damaged. As many transformers are located in residential areas, they may be part of the landscaping or areas we mow, making them susceptible to contact with mowers or tractors.

Any damage to the pad mount of a transformer can leave just enough room for critters like squirrels, mice, rats, gophers, snakes and even fire ants to move in and cause real damage to the inside. Their nesting materials can cause short circuits by eating away at conductor insulation or packing the transformer full of dirt or debris, both of which make equipment maintenance a challenge.

To prevent interruption in your power, please let us know if you see damage to the equipment in your yard so our crews can make the necessary repairs.

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October is National Co-op Month

As an electric cooperative, our top priority is always to provide reliable, affordable energy to you, the member-owners we serve. Because we are a co-op, our mission is to enrich the lives of our members and serve the long-term interests of our local community – and this mission has never been more critical than in recent months. One of the seven principles that guides all co-ops is “concern for community.” To me, this principle is the essential DNA of Nodak Electric, and it sets us apart from other electric utilities.

October is National Co-op Month, and electric cooperatives across the country are highlighting the many ways we “Power On.” Keeping this theme in mind, I recognize the essential role we play in serving special communities like ours.

Who would have fathomed back in March, that the COVID-19 virus would amount to a test of our community and our nation? The changing circumstances due to the pandemic have created both challenges and opportunities. During the past several months, we’ve all been challenged to operate differently, and Nodak has stepped up to help our members and strengthen the safety net for our more vulnerable neighbors.

As an essential service, and to ensure reliability of your power supply, we modified our operations to safeguard business continuity. Our line crews and other employees began working to maintain separation from each other to ensure we have healthy employees ready to serve you. Some staff worked remotely. In the office, we limited and modified meetings and gatherings to allow for safe separation. We also adjusted our walk-in office availability and in-person service calls to ensure the health and safety of our employees and our valued members. In addition, we initially postponed our annual meeting and finally held that meeting as a “ballot only” meeting to protect our membership. For the health and safety of everyone, we think these measures were the prudent course of action for the times.

For our members impacted by COVID-19 who needed help with their electric bills, we waived late fees and service disconnections for several months and worked with those hit hardest to make special payment arrangements.

And while we certainly missed visiting with you in person, we found new ways to stay connected. As a member-owner, you can now virtually transact all your business with the cooperative online if you choose, including signing up for new services. We also ramped up our social media efforts to help you stay better informed and added additional content to our website.

I tell you about all these efforts not to boast about Nodak Electric, but to explain how much we care about the communities we serve – because we live here, too.

We’ve seen other local businesses rising to meet similar challenges during this time, because that’s what communities do. While the challenges caused by COVID-19 have been daunting, I’m heartened to see how everyone is pulling together.

In 1939, Nodak Electric Cooperative was built by the community to serve the community, and that’s what we’ll continue to do – Power On.

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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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Who Owns What?

Electric co-op owned equipment vs member-owned equipment

Nodak Electric Cooperative is committed to the reliable delivery of power to our members.

When power interruption occurs, we work very hard to restore service as quickly and as safely as we can.

With so many different pieces of equipment that make up the electrical system, it can be hard to know what equipment belongs to (and is repaired by) Nodak and what portion is the member’s responsibility (see illustration on this page).

Nodak lineworkers maintain all 8,082 miles of line that make up the system, including your individual service all the way to the meter (and meter disconnect – if we installed it – below your meter).

Due to insurance, liability and safety reasons, lineworkers cannot work on anything past the meter or on any equipment mounted on a building.  Please contact a licensed electrician to help you with your electrical projects.

Members are responsible for equipment between the meter and home or business, including the overhead or underground service line that leads into the structure and the service panel (fuse box).  Please call a licensed electrician to make repairs.

Whether it’s Nodak’s line or member-owned line, please be aware when planting trees, shrubs, etc., of not only the overhead lines but also underground wires.

If you have questions on who owns what, please contact us at 800-732-4373.

 

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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, 2021. 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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