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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The Electric Vehicle Revolution

Across the country, we hear more about electric vehicles (EVs) today than we ever have before, and there’s good reason for it. U.S. and foreign car manufacturers have been betting big and are committing massive amounts of capital to developing and marketing this form of petroleum-free transportation. Investment in electric vehicles announced by the beginning of this year include at least $19 billion by automakers in the U.S., $21 billion in China and over $52 billion in Germany.

While sales of EVs today comprise just 2% of all automobile sales, automakers are betting heavily that those numbers will change. A recent study by Bloomberg estimates that EV sales will exceed 60% of all new car sales in the U.S. by 2040 and over half of new car sales worldwide. That seems like the distant future, but it’s hard to believe that is only 20 years from now.

Regulatory issues and consumer sentiments about climate change are fueling this ramp-up of EV investment, but what’s at the heart of it is the huge strides that have been made in battery technology. Th e average cost of a lithium-ion battery pack has dropped 85% from $1,160 in 2010 to $176 in 2018 and continues to decrease. Further development in batteries will drive the cost even lower, but will also help ease the two biggest roadblocks for potential EV consumers – range anxiety and charging wait times.

The average range of an electric vehicle today is 190 miles compared to 475 miles for a gasoline-powered car, but that is changing with Tesla’s new Roadster, boasting a range of up to 620 miles between charges. The time it takes to top off your vehicle is coming down as well. Rapid chargers now provide an additional 60 to 200 miles of range in as little as 20 minutes of charge time.

Most EV charging is done at home or at work while the vehicle is idle, which is 95% of the time. While on the road, the network of public fast charging stations across the country is growing rapidly. As of January, Tesla’s supercharger network of fast charging stations consisted of over 12,000 charging stalls with plans to grow that number to over 15,000. As of May, there were more than 68,800 nonresidential charging units throughout the United States.

One of the biggest selling points of EVs is that despite the higher purchase price, the cost of ownership can be much less. With 25% fewer parts and significantly fewer moving parts, maintenance costs are dramatically less. Oil changes are essentially a thing of the past with electric vehicles. Operating costs can also be dramatically reduced. Fuel costs will range between 3 to 4 cents per mile with an electric vehicle compared to around 10 cents per mile for a standard vehicle, depending on gas prices and your vehicle’s gas mileage.

Despite the hype and all the technological advances, North Dakotans have been slow to adopt this new form of transportation. Cold temperatures reduce the operating efficiency and range of batteries. Our rural nature means we have to drive farther than most Americans do, and as I sit at my desk writing and watching vehicles go by my window, I’m reminded that we gravitate toward SUVs, pickup trucks and the like. Over time, technology will overcome cold temperatures and long distance, but automakers will ultimately decide what choices we have for model options. To that end, I recently watched a YouTube video of the new all-electric Ford F-150 prototype pulling a freight train weighing over a million pounds. I guess at least Ford is betting rural America will eventually embrace electric vehicles.

In August, we co-sponsored an event at Minnkota’s Grand Forks campus to showcase electric cars and North Dakota’s first all-electric school bus. Th e event was well-attended by folks interested in learning about growing EV adoption over the next few years. Electric vehicles will certainly play a central role in new car purchase options in the years ahead – how long it will take until they become mainstream in North Dakota is yet to be seen. Automakers are betting big this will be sooner rather than later.

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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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A Step Back In Time

Pembina County Historical Museum tells story of early settlers

Imagine taking a step back in time and following the footsteps of the early settlers in northeast North Dakota.

The state’s homesteading spirit is brought to life at the Pembina County Historical Museum. Visitors are transformed into turn-of-the century pioneers as they interact with the antique farm machinery that helped families prosper from the rich Red River Valley soil. They stroll through an original homestead, barn and church that once brought rural citizens together.

The Pembina County Historical Museum is located across the road from the beautiful Icelandic State Park near Cavalier, N.D. Established in 1964, the 912-acre park allows visitors to learn about the state’s early settlement and provides an array of recreational opportunities. Boating, swimming and fishing are a few favorite summer activities while snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular during the winter. Picnic areas enable visitors to enjoy a relaxing afternoon in the shade of old oak trees.

The Pembina County Historical Museum was originally located within the city of Cavalier and moved to its current location in 1999. The land for the museum and Icelandic State Park were donated to the state by G.B. and Esther Gunlogson. The museum officially opened for visitors in 2001.

On the grounds are 13 buildings to tour, including the historic St. Anthony’s Church with a choir loft, an 1882 homestead and a 1930s barn filled with tack and tools of a real working barn that fed and housed animals. There is also a blacksmith shop, granary, engine building, restored Great Northern Depot, three buildings of restored farm equipment and the main museum building containing exhibits and a jail converted to a research library. It also has one of the largest antique vehicle collections in North Dakota, including the rare 1925 Case Model X Suburban Coupe, which was originally purchased by G. B. Gunlogson when he was head of the Case motor car division. The Society purchased it from a collector in Maryland a few years ago.

The granary is located on 20 acres leased from the state’s Parks and Recreation Department. It’s adjacent to 22 acres of land owned by the Pembina County Historical Society where the barn and tractor pull track are located. Collectable historical items are donated to the museum from local collectors and those as far away as Florida.

“People originally from around the area stay in contact with the museum and help in bringing in historical items,” said Zelda Hartje, museum administrator.

Although the museum is filled with the state’s history, new attractions are being added on a regular basis. Recently, two 6-foot-tall statue soldiers weighing 1,300 pounds each were added to the Veterans Memorial.

For the last three years, the museum has also worked with area youth to help build a community orchard. The public is invited to visit the orchard to view the progress of the trees, bushes and pollinator plants.

The museum is free to the public and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Machinery Show To Raise Funds

The Pembina County Historical Society will hold its 26th annual Pioneer Machinery Show at the museum on Sept. 8. The event is the Society’s largest annual fundraiser and typically draws more than 1,000 people.

The day includes a Threshermen’s breakfast, church service, blacksmith and sawmill demonstrations, parade, kids activities, kids pedal pull, Jim Johnston Memorial Antique Tractor Pull at 2 p.m., threshing demonstrations and much more to do and see.

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Co-ops And Environmental Stewardship

The recent decline of the monarch butterfly has been “flying under the radar” so to speak, so I thought I’d bring you up to date. In the last two decades, the population of monarch butterflies that winter in Mexico has declined by 90% from its high in 1997. The decline is attributed to things such as unseasonably warm fall weather and severe hurricanes during the monarch migration, but most notably it is the loss of their spring and summer breeding habitat in the U.S. that is being blamed for the decline.

Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. In fact, the monarch is also known as the “milkweed butterfly.” Without the milkweed, there would be no monarch butterfly. The milkweed plant provides all the nourishment the monarch needs to transform the caterpillar into an adult butterfly.

These plants, however, are rapidly diminishing due to the loss of habitat stemming from land development, as well as the widespread use of weed killers and pesticides. The milkweed necessary for the monarch to complete its life cycle used to spring up between the rows of corn, soybeans and other commercial crops. Today, we do a better job of removing the unwanted plants from our fields, but in the meantime it also reduces the available habitat for the orange and black-winged pollinators.

As a result of this decline, in 2014 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was petitioned to protect the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. Based on the information in the petition, it was determined that federally protecting the monarch may be necessary, so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would conduct a thorough assessment. A final decision on whether to protect the butterfly was due at the end of June but has been delayed 18 months until Dec. 15, 2020.

Listing the monarch for protection as an endangered species could have wide-ranging impacts for cooperatives across the Midwest. Activities such as vegetation management and infrastructure construction and maintenance could become highly regulated and expensive to complete.

In an effort to weigh in to the listing determination, co-ops across the country are implementing voluntary conservation measures. Some are even developing pollinator habitat gardens with milkweed and nectar plants around headquarters and solar farms and in rights-of-way.

America’s electric cooperatives take pride in being good environmental stewards of the land. For decades, co-ops have implemented voluntary projects to benefit “at risk” species and their habitats. In fact, collective voluntary efforts are what has resulted in some of the greatest conservation success stories, such as the delisting of the bald eagle as an endangered species.

I don’t think you’ll see your cooperative planting weed gardens anytime soon, but we will be following the progress of this decision very closely. When we evaluate our vegetation management practices, we will certainly look at the options for maintaining monarch habitat without adversely affecting our neighbors. In the meantime, if you hear about cooperatives across the country planting weeds, rest assured there is a good reason for it.

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