Smart Grid Technology To Improve Reliability, Benefit Nodak Members

In its nearly 70 years of operation, the Cooperstown substation has powered it all.

The facility helped bring electricity out to farms and ranches in the early 1950s. It energized the development of Minuteman Missile sites during the Cold War. And it stayed stride for stride with our demand for energy in a digital world.

This fall, the substation is set for a well-earned retirement. The aging equipment will be replaced with a new, modern substation to meet the area’s long-term energy needs.

Substations, those collections of wires and transformers you see behind chain-link fences, raise the voltage of electricity at a power generation facility for efficient transmission over long distances, then lower it so it can be safely used in homes and businesses. Nodak receives power at the substation from Minnkota Power Cooperative, its wholesale power provider, and then brings it out to its member-consumers.

“The existing Cooperstown substation was basically at its maximum capacity,” said Jay Bushy, Minnkota’s lead engineer on the project. “If Nodak would have had additional load out there, we wouldn’t have been able to provide for it without expanding the substation.”

Once the new substation is energized later this year, the existing substation will be decommissioned, the equipment will be removed and the site restored to its original condition with grass planted. The entire project is estimated to cost $900,000.

Minnkota operates and maintains more than 250 substations on behalf of Nodak and 10 other electric cooperatives in eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. Initiating the rebuild of an existing substation or replacing equipment goes through a meticulous review process where age, location, system demand and many other factors are considered. A construction work plan is developed on an annual basis and approved by a board consisting of representatives from the 11 Minnkota member cooperatives.

Real-time data

The new Cooperstown substation provides significant benefits in terms of communication and reliability, Bushy said. An upgraded computer system, known in the industry as SCADA, will help gather and analyze data, while also monitoring and controlling equipment processes remotely. It is part of a long-term upgrade project to add smart grid technology at the older substation sites. All new substations have the technology in place.

“We’ll be better able to isolate outages and switch lines on and off,” Bushy said. “That’s a benefit to Nodak and its members.”

Smart grid technology has been added this summer at the Robbin substation (near Drayton), Depuy substation (near Grafton) and Adams substation (west of Park River) in Nodak’s service area. The goal of these projects is to replace the meters and regulator panels with state-of-the-art technology that will provide real-time communication back to Minnkota’s Energy Control Center.

By receiving real-time data from the substations, personnel can more quickly respond to outages and other power quality issues.

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Maintaining Geographic Diversity

I’m sure you are aware that Nodak’s service territory is divided into three separate districts, with three of our nine board members residing in each district. This is done for several reasons, but most importantly it ensures a certain degree of geographic diversity among our board members.

This geographic diversity spreads our board members throughout our service area. That increases the chance there will be a board member you know, live near, or interact with occasionally. It also increases the likelihood that the board will more closely match the diversity of our membership. The life experiences and perspectives that come from raising livestock in the western part of our service area may be somewhat different from that gained by raising sugar beets in the northern Red River Valley, dealing with the rising water near Devils Lake, or the congestion of a larger city in the east. Member districts guard against one area dominating the board and falling to special interests or just losing touch with our membership.

With the goal of maintaining that geographical diversity, from time to time our board reviews the makeup of the three districts and makes adjustments to their boundaries. Our bylaws require that “the cooperative service territory shall be divided into three substantially similar districts based on member population.” While we do experience growth throughout our service area, the growth around the population centers has a tendency to skew the numbers toward the more populated areas. In an effort to reestablish parity between the districts, your board has adjusted the district boundaries ahead of our next board election.

To accomplish this, each of the three districts were modified slightly to bring the member population substantially equal again. The map on this page shows the new districts that will be used for our next board of director election in April. If you live close to the new district boundaries and are unsure which district you live in, feel free to call the cooperative headquarters and we will be happy to assist you in determining which district you are part of.

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Celebrate Co-op Month!

By providing the electricity that powers your home, farm or business, cooperatives play a role in your daily life. As we observe Co-op Month in October, electric cooperative members should be proud of the success of the cooperative business model and the spirit of cooperation these organizations promote. Cooperatives are a true example of grassroots involvement because cooperatives are owned and controlled by those they serve.

Look across North Dakota’s landscape and you’ll notice cooperatives improve our quality of life everywhere. Electric cooperatives bring light to our lives, cool our food and heat our homes.

So, when you turn on a light, or power up your computer, remember your electric cooperative is standing behind you each and every day.

Co-ops are community-led

October is National Co-op Month, which is the perfect time to highlight the many ways electric cooperatives are unique.

Cooperatives are locally governed, looking out for the long-term needs of their consumer-members.

Co-ops are a catalyst for good

Electric co-ops are a catalyst for good in their communities. Co-ops engage their consumer-members to do things that might otherwise be impossible or difficult, like more than 75 years ago when electric co-ops brought power to areas where other utilities did not find it economically feasible.

Cooperatives exist to meet a need that was previously unmet in the community, and they are ever striving to anticipate and plan for the future needs of their consumer-members.

Electric cooperatives often partner with local groups to bring economic opportunity to their local community. It is this facilitation role that is often the most valuable strength of the co-op.

The co-op business model is unique. It is pragmatic, mission-oriented and puts people first. Co-ops strive to be a trusted voice in their communities. Co-ops have earned that trust because, while not perfect, they always have their members’ best interest at heart and are determined to enrich the lives of those living and working in the communities they serve – now and in the future.

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New Hire

Jeff Bolstad, a Valley City native and a graduate of Valley City State University with a bachelor of science degree in computer information systems, joined the Nodak team as an information technologist in July.

Prior to Nodak, Jeff worked for Eide Bailly Technology Consulting and Network Center, Inc., in Fargo and Grand Forks, as a help desk technician/team lead.

At Nodak, Jeff will provide onsite and remote software support as well as multiple server hardware and operating software support. He will also ensure stable operation of the cooperative LAN, WAN and PC workstations, and use risk management to identify vulnerabilities and threats to information.

In his spare time, Jeff enjoys brewing beer, gardening and is a fan of both the Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota Vikings.

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Nowacki Retires

Nodak would like to wish Loren Nowacki a wonderful retirement.

Loren started at Nodak in November 1998 as an information technologist, a position he held until retirement. He was excellent at servicing and maintaining computers. He was always patient while educating employees with new programs and the continually changing technology world.

Blaine Rekken, manager of member/energy services, said, “Loren has been a great asset and faithful employee of Nodak during his 19-plus years serving as information technologist for the cooperative, and we wish him many years of health and happiness in his retirement! I will miss Loren’s cooperative spirit, dependability, attention to detail and quick wit. Congratulations, Loren, for achieving this milestone in your life!”

Loren’s retirement plans include work on home projects, travel, spend time with family and grandchildren, and do volunteer work.

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Your Co-Op, Your Piece Of The Pie

Capital credit power bill credits and checks totaling $1.3 million were recently issued to our current and former members’ purchasing power from Nodak Electric Cooperative in the year 2000.

The capital credit check or power bill credit that is delivered to you has a long history behind it. It is easier to understand the entire concept of capital credits if you look at the early beginnings of the electric distribution industry in our state. Back in the 1930s and 40s, the Rural Electrification Administration provided the funding necessary to build the power lines into the sparsely populated regions of this country. The challenge was, after the lines were built and electricity was flowing, how do we keep this fledgling electric company afloat and the lights kept on? The concept of capital credits provided that much-needed funding mechanism to keep the cooperative growing.

The early members contributed “capital” to the cooperative by purchasing electricity at a rate that was slightly above the cost to deliver energy to them. That small amount of profit or margin was then retained by the cooperative to help finance the operations for the following year. In a sense, the original members of the cooperative were looking out for the needs of future members by allowing the co-op to retain those margins to build new lines in the years that followed. In return for the usage of those member funds, the cooperative set up a separate account to keep track of how much each member proportionately contributed to the entire margin picture with the intent of someday reimbursing that member, thus the term “credit” was joined with capital.

Time passes by quickly and here we are nearly 80 years after the first power lines were strung. Everything around us has changed, but some things remain consistent. We are still delivering energy to our members at a rate that is just above the cost to deliver it. We still live in a part of the country that is sparsely populated. With continually increasing costs associated with running an electric distribution system, it becomes more of a challenge to pass those costs along to a relatively small membership and still carve out a slight margin.

Still, another unchanged fact is the concept of paying back past members for usage of their working capital, or “capital credits,” in a timely manner. Our Board of Directors has consistently followed the principles of retiring capital credits that were founded back in the 1930s. Due to those spiraling costs and a small growth of new customers, the amount of time from when the capital is contributed by the member to the time he/she is repaid has stretched out to 17 years. In comparison, there are many cooperatives in the United States that are on a 20-25 year cycle and still others that have never retired capital credits.

So, as you can see, the capital credit retirement from Nodak Electric Cooperative that you recently received has historical roots that run deep. It’s just one of the many benefits of doing business with us, and we hope to keep those types of things unchanged.

Tom Edwards, Accounting & Finance Manager

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Lightning Safety

People generally think of lightning damage as what happens at the point where a cloud-to-ground strike hits a tree, structure or elevated wiring. Unless the struck items are protected from lightning, the results of the strike are often visible and lasting. However, the lightning current pulse continues into conductive parts of the structure, cables, and even underground wiring and pipes. Because the initial lightning impulse is so strong, equipment connected to cables a mile or more from the site of the strike can be damaged.

The most common damage arises from a lightning strike to the network of power, phone and cable television wiring. This network, especially if it is elevated, is an effective collector of the lightning surges. The wiring then conducts the surges directly into the residence and to the connected equipment. Lightning can also travel through the ground (soil), reaching underground cables or pipes. This is another route for lightning to come into a building and can also damage the cables.

The second-most common mode results from strikes to or near the external wiring – common to most suburban and rural houses. Air conditioners, satellite dishes, exterior lights, gate control systems, pool support equipment, patios and cabanas, phone extensions, electronic dog fences and security systems can all be struck by lightning. The lightning surges will then be carried inside the house by the wiring.

To take maximum precautions, unplug as many electrical and electronic appliances as possible if there is a storm brewing.

Remember to check both the electric sockets and the telephone and cable television connections. Surge protectors are a good aid in protecting your equipment, but in proportion to the very low risk involved, these can be very expensive. Nothing can withstand a lightning strike – it is best to totally unplug.

Source: lightningsafety.com

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Know What’s Below: Call Before You Dig

No matter how large or small your digging project may be, remember to call 811 before you dig. Calling before you dig will keep you out of trouble with the law. Besides, who wants their neighbors mad at them because they caused a power outage when they dug a hole to plant a tree?

North Dakota One Call provides a single point of contact to both prevent damage to underground utility facilities and to protect public and construction contractors from contact with power, gas, water and communication lines.

For Nodak to locate underground wires, it is required by law for the member to call 811.

Nodak has approximately 4,280 miles of underground cable wire, so if the cable is cut or damaged, that could lead to loss of power for many of our members. It will also result in added cost to the person(s) responsible for the damage. There have been cases of electrocution and severe injuries caused by digging into electric lines that could have been avoided with a simple call to 811.

How do you know whose line it is?

Homeowners should be aware that private facilities such as septic, water, gas lines from a propane tank, private secondary wiring running to an outbuilding or shed, an invisible pet fence or sprinkler systems WILL NOT be marked. In these instances, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to make sure any privately owned underground wires on the member side of the meter are located prior to digging. Electric secondary lines should be located by an electrician. The property owner or tenant is responsible for contacting a private locater and paying the fee for locating private underground facilities.

What are private electric underground facilities?

Private underground facilities, or member-owned facilities, are those facilities that were installed after the meter. Also, if overhead distribution lines serve the property and the power is then distributed on the property by underground service facilities, those service facilities may be considered private. If the homeowner’s electric meter is located on the property line, then that electric line from the meter to the house is considered privately owned and will not be located.

Where are private facilities found?

Private facilities are found everywhere, including single family homes, multifamily housing units, industrial areas, trailer parks, shopping centers and sometimes in the road right-of-way. Other private facilities can include: natural gas farm taps, natural gas or propane gas underground piping to buildings, gas grills, pool heaters, private water systems, data communication lines, underground sprinkler systems, invisible fences and many others.

Unless the property owner participates as a registered facility operator of North Dakota One Call, private or member-owned facilities will not be marked or notified. If you have a question on whether a facility in your excavation area is considered private, please contact that local utility office.

How the 811 process works:
  • Call 8-1-1 to submit a locate request 2-3 business days prior to the project. North Dakota One Call is available 24/7 and the call is free.
  • Wait the required amount of time for affected utility operators to respond to the request. Nodak typically responds to a locate request within 24-48 hours (1-2 business days).
  • Check that all affected utility operators have responded and marked underground utilities. See the color code chart above to know what flag color represents which utility.
  • Respect the flags. Please keep the markers in place until the project is complete.
  • As always, proceed and dig with caution!
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50-year Contract With Air Base Good News For Member Owners

Each time we publish an edition of The Nodak Neighbor, I take that opportunity to utilize some of the space to share information with our member-owners. Those topics vary from some sort of safety-related topic like “Call Before You Dig,” or what to do if your vehicle hits a power pole, to subjects like regulation, voting or getting involved. With this edition, I’m happy to say I get to share some long-awaited good news. On July 1, 2018, Nodak was awarded a 50-year contract to take over the maintenance, repair and replacement of the electric infrastructure at Grand Forks Air Force Base and Cavalier Air Force Station.

The takeover, or privatization, of the Air Base distribution systems should be fairly transparent to the government and to the families that live on the installations. Nodak has been serving the electric needs of both facilities on a bulk basis for quite a long time, and the government or their contractors have been responsible for their systems from the substations to the end users. With this new arrangement, Nodak will be responsible to maintain an adequate distribution system so we can deliver the power all the way to the end user.

We began this process approximately six years ago when we received notice that Grand Forks Air Force Base and Cavalier Air Force Station would be accepting bids for a 50-year contract to privatize their electric, water, and wastewater systems. With the assistance of a consultant that specializes in helping small businesses procure federal contracts, we submitted our proposal and were ultimately awarded the contract.

Over the next five months, we will go through a transition process where we finalize contracts and pricing and prepare personnel and equipment for working on the Bases. Dec. 1, 2018, will be the official start date of the new agreement. From that point on, Nodak will receive a monthly payment for keeping the Base distribution systems working properly. In essence, that means we will go from serving bulk electricity to the installations to doing essentially what we do for all our other members. We will not only provide the power needed, but we will also care for the systems that bring the power to the end user.

Overall, we believe this will provide a safer and more reliable electric service to the government and the families who live and work on the Bases. For our membership, what this means is additional revenue to help take pressure off electric rates and lessen the effect of rising costs. This is a significant event for our member-owners, and we are excited to share this news with you.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer.

Mylo Einarson
President & CEO

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Youth Tour Winner Visits Washington, D.C.

Sixteen North Dakota high school students returned June 14 from the 54th-annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour in Washington, D.C. They joined more than 1,600 students from around the nation for a fast-paced, intensive week of learning about history and American government, visiting with their state’s congressional delegation, becoming more knowledgeable about the cooperative business model, and touring museums, national monuments and memorials. While on the tour, the students develop leadership skills and a national network of peers. Each year, high school students learn firsthand what it is like to be involved in politics, community development and today’s social issues.

Past participants have described this as “a once-in-a-lifetime” experience. The students are sponsored by their family’s electric distribution cooperative. This year’s participant, Lilly Bina, Park River, represented Nodak Electric Cooperative on the Youth Tour.

Coordination of the Youth Tour is handled by the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC). NDAREC serves as the liaison between the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and the state’s distribution cooperatives. Year after year, the Youth Tour has been followed up with glowing praise from participants; this year was no exception.

Why does Nodak Electric offer this experience to our area youth? Because we realize it is more vital than ever that today’s young people understand and support the rural electrification program, for they are tomorrow’s leaders and consumers.

Education is a fundamental principle of electric cooperatives. Boards of directors and co-op leaders believe it’s imperative to help students understand the democratic process and gain the skills necessary to become leaders. Through the Youth Tour, co-ops across the country have made unforgettable impacts on students for more than half a century.

Every fall, Nodak issues the Youth Tour essay contest to local sophomores and juniors. By early February, submissions are collected and judged, and the winners are contacted in preparation for the trip in June.

For more information, visit nodakelectric.com/youth-tour, ndyouthtour.com, or youthtour.coop.

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Promotions

Derek Sondreal was promoted to foreman of the Grand Forks crew. He has been with Nodak for nine years.

 

 


Jared Stadstad was promoted to lead lineman with the Grand Forks crew. He has been with Nodak for seven years.

 

 


Ben Haarstad was promoted to journeyman lineman and interim crew foreman with the construction crew. He has been with Nodak for five years.

 

 


Travis Vatthauer was promoted to journeyman lineman with the Grand Forks crew. He has been with Nodak for three years.

 

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Stay Safe On The Farm

Overhead power lines are necessary to deliver electricity to hardworking farmers and ranchers, but those same power lines can also be deadly if not treated with respect. While you need to focus on the field and your machinery, your local electric cooperative urges you to also watch for electrical hazards around the farm or ranch.

Be Aware

Farmers and their equipment should always be 10 feet away from power lines on all sides. Field cultivators and sprayers can often reach as high as 12 feet in the air. Practice extreme caution and use a spotter to make sure you stay far away from power lines when you use tall equipment.

If you have purchased new equipment, be aware of antennas or other attachments that may pose new hazards. A newer, bigger piece of equipment may no longer clear a line. In addition, shifting soil may also affect whether machinery avoids power lines from year to year.

Power lines also may sag over the years. If power lines on your property are sagging, contact your electric cooperative to repair the lines. Never try to move a power line on your own.

Overhead power lines are not the only electric hazard on the farm. Pole guy wires, used to stabilize utility poles, are grounded. However, when one of the guy wires is broken, it can become charged with electricity. If you break a guy wire, call the cooperative to fix it. Don’t do it yourself.

Follow These Other Tips:

  • Look over work areas carefully for overhead power lines and utility poles. Make sure you, your family and employees know the location of overhead power lines, and use routes to avoid the lines when moving equipment. Do this every year, as equipment sizes and soil conditions may change.
  • Be aware of increased heights of equipment, especially new equipment with higher antennas.
  • Avoid moving large equipment alone. Have someone watch as you move equipment to ensure you are clear of power lines.
  • Be extra careful when working around trees and brush; they often make it difficult to see power lines.

What If You Contact A Power Line?

Imagine that you are driving a tractor to the field when things come to a screeching halt. You look back to see what’s stopping you, only to discover that you’re tangled in an overhead power line! What do you do?

  • First, DON’T climb out. If your equipment does contact a power line, stay in the cab and call for help. Warn others to stay away and wait until the electric cooperative arrives. Most utility lines are uninsulated, bare wires. Do not let your body become a direct link between the power line and the ground.
  • If you must leave the tractor due to immediate danger, such as a fire, jump as far away as you can, making sure that no part of your body touches the tractor and the ground at the same time. Land with both feet together and hop or shuffle your feet a few inches at a time, making sure to never break contact with the ground or cause separation between your feet.
  • Once you’re off the tractor, do not go back until your local electric co-op disconnects the power line.
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