What Is Off-Peak?

An off-peak system consists of an electric heating source as its primary component. When Nodak Electric Cooperative has high demand, the electric heat will automatically turn off and a supplemental heating source will need to operate in its place.

Off-peak heating loads are generally controlled during the coldest months of the year when the demand for electricity is high. 

By enrolling in the program, the savings we get on demand charges are passed on to the participating Nodak Electric Cooperative members through the low off-peak electric rate, which is $0.062/kWh – approximately half of the regular retail rate. This rate is extremely competitive with petroleum fuels used for heating. 

Minnkota Power Cooperative, our wholesale power provider, tracks demand peaks and when control is needed, it sends a message via power lines that will reach you by your individually programmed ripple receiver at your home, farm or business and will automatically switch to the supplemental heat source.

There are many options for your off-peak heating installation, but the main requirement is a reliable backup system to ensure you have heat on the coldest days. If you are interested in off-peak, please contact our Energy Services Department at 701-746-4461. 

We want to continue to be able to offer this program for years to come. The way we will be doing that is yearly checks on our off-peak equipment to ensure it is working properly. We will be able to monitor them from the office, which may also require an in-home inspection of the equipment.

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Remembering Harvey Tallackson

Harvey Tallackson, a longtime electric cooperative leader and North Dakota state senator, died on July 27 in St. Paul, Minn. Tallackson, 97, will be remembered as a strong advocate for electric cooperatives and rural citizens in the region. 

Tallackson served on the  Nodak Electric Cooperative board from 1965 to 2010. He also served as Nodak’s representative on the Minnkota board from 1974 to 2010 – including 12 years as vice chairman and 15 years as chairman.

Tallackson was born May 15, 1925, in Grafton, N.D. He served as senator for District 16 in North Dakota’s northeastern corner for 32 years. In addition to public service, Tallackson was active in many organizations in the Grafton and Park River communities.

He is preceded in death by his wife, Glenna, to whom he was married for 73 years. The couple had four children, 13 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.

A funeral service was held at Zion Lutheran Church, rural Hoople, N.D., on Sept. 7, 2022.

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Stay Safe This Harvest Season

As newer farming technologies emerge, causing machinery to get bigger, Nodak is noting more incidents of farming equipment striking poles or contacting overhead lines. This causes dangerous and costly collisions which can occur quickly on the farm.

Earlier this month, Minnkota Power Cooperative dispatched line personnel, along with a Nodak crew, when a large piece of equipment struck and toppled a transmission pole, causing a two-hour power outage to two substations that affected more than 2,000 members. “This is one of many outages Nodak seen just this year,” said Steve Breidenbach, Engineering Manager.

These accidents have caused significant damage to the electric system, and added cost in the thousands, he added.

Grain augers or lifted truck boxes exiting a field can become an excellent path to the ground should you fail to recognize the potential danger of a power line overhead.

  1. Consider any overhead line dangerous. Keep objects at least 10 feet away from power lines.
  2. Inspect your working areas for possible interference with overhead power lines.
  3. Don’t attempt to raise or move electric lines.
  4. Call 811 before digging where power lines are buried.
  5. Report potential power line hazards to Nodak immediately.

These dangerous accidents can be avoided by looking up or planning ahead when operating large farm machinery.

Thank you to all our local farmers for the essential work you do to feed our communities! 

Have a safe and bountiful harvest this season.

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Sounding The Alarm On Grid Reliability

North Dakota, Minnesota at risk of power outages this summer

America’s electric grid has become increasingly unstable – and it could begin impacting Minnkota Power Cooperative’s members this summer.

That’s why Minnkota is joining many of our nation’s grid operators and regulators in sounding the alarm on the vulnerabilities that are affecting power reliability. As the pace of change in the energy industry continues to accelerate, so does the risk of rotating power outages and other extended service interruptions. Minnkota’s eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota service area is no longer immune to the large-scale grid challenges that have been experienced in Texas and California in recent years.

Minnkota takes its responsibility to provide reliable, resilient and responsible electricity seriously. The cooperative has more than enough generating capacity to meet the demands of its members (including Nodak Electric) through its coal, wind and hydro resources. But Minnkota does not operate on the grid alone. Utilities across the Upper Midwest are connected through Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). Emergency events experienced in other parts of the MISO region can and do have impacts back into the Minnkota system.

One of the most significant industry issues is the retirement of baseload and dispatchable power plants – including coal, nuclear and natural gas – without adequate replacements. Wind and solar make up the majority of the new resources being added to the grid, but they are limited by the fact that they are only able to operate intermittently – when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. While Minnkota supports moving toward a cleaner, more sustainable energy future, it is not something that can happen with the flip of the switch. It will take decades of planning and unprecedented technology development to achieve significant carbon reduction.

MISO expresses concerns

Minnkota is not alone in coming to these conclusions. MISO issued a dire warning in April that it does not have enough reliable power plant capacity on its system to meet its projected peak demand this summer. The result is an increasing risk of power outage events. 

Minnkota both buys and sells surplus power in the MISO system, which estimates a 1,230-megawatt (MW) shortfall in power plant capacity to meet its reserve margin. For context, one megawatt-hour (MWh) is enough electricity to serve more than 800 homes with an hour’s worth of power.

“Due in large part to decarbonization goals set by our members and the states in our region, our resource fleet is increasingly reliant on intermittent and weather-dependent resources,” said Wayne Schug, vice president of strategy and business development at MISO. “As this trend continues in the future, MISO needs to evolve the grid, our markets, and our operational capabilities, which is just as complex as it sounds.”

In a recent interview in the Wall Street Journal, MISO CEO John Bear added to this point by saying, “As we move forward, we need to know that when you put a solar panel or a wind turbine up, it’s not the same as a thermal resource.” 

MISO’s peak demand for electricity typically occurs in the summer months during the hottest days of the year. The organization is conducting training and exercises to prepare for worst-case scenarios and is also implementing lessons learned and best practices. Likewise, Minnkota’s energy marketing team is working to ensure it’s ready to respond to volatile market and reliability conditions.

NERC issues grim report

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) – the federal regulatory entity responsible for the reliability of the nation’s electric grid – is also expressing concerns heading into the summer season. According to NERC, MISO is in the “high risk” category, and has the potential of “facing capacity shortfalls in its north and central areas during both normal and extreme conditions due to generator retirements and increased demand.”

NERC’s Summer Reliability Assessment notes that reliability challenges are being compounded by evolving demands on the power grid, which has grown increasingly complex as renewable energy assets are added.

“There’s clear, objective, inclusive data indicating that the pace of our grid transformation is a bit out of sync with the underlying realities and the physics of the system,” said John Moura, NERC’s director of reliability assessment.

Along with the changing power supply mix, NERC also identified extreme weather conditions, high seasonal demand for electricity, supply chain issues and cybersecurity threats as other risks impacting reliability.

What is Minnkota doing?

While there are challenges, Minnkota supports efforts to reimagine how electricity can be produced, delivered and consumed. But the implementation of these ideas must be met with caution and common sense. After all, there is a lot on the line. A resilient and reliable electric grid that affordably keeps the lights on is the cornerstone of the American economy and our national security. Any missteps in an energy transition of this magnitude can have irreversible consequences. 

So, what can be done? Minnkota is only one of thousands of utilities across the country, but it is taking its own steps to protect itself from power reliability challenges.

  • Training and education
    Minnkota’s employees are trained to respond to emergency grid events and continuously work to shield members from the volatility of the grid and markets. The cooperative also invests significant time in helping member-consumers, lawmakers, business interests and others in the general public understand the challenges the industry faces and the complexity in providing reliable power to the region.
  • Maintaining a diverse energy mix
    Minnkota’s energy portfolio consists of a diverse mix of coal, wind and hydro resources. Working together, these facilities help ensure 24/7 reliability on the Minnkota system. Coal-based facilities remain the workhorse of the system and are routinely available to produce power during the vast majority of each year.
  • Upgrading our power delivery systems
    Minnkota is building, upgrading and replacing the power delivery resources that connect its communities. New technologies are being added to Minnkota’s grid to provide enhanced data and communication capabilities – all in an effort to respond more quickly to issues and improve overall reliability.
  • Continuous cybersecurity evolution
    Minnkota continuously works to protect the electric grid from physical and cyber security threats. Energy experts in Minnkota’s Control Center monitor the grid 24 hours a day to ensure the safety of the cooperative’s employees, infrastructure and data.
  • Strategically utilizing demand response
    Minnkota has one of the most robust and effective demand response (also called off-peak) programs in the country. Through the program, Minnkota and its members can temporarily control electric heating, water heating and vehicle charging loads – shifting electrical demand when economical resources are not available.
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Nodak Helps Northern Thunder Air Show Take Flight

More than 13,000 visitors flooded the tarmac of the Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB) on June 18, many toting camping chairs and rocking aviator sunglasses. Flight enthusiasts had traveled from across the region to experience the 2022 Northern Thunder Air Show, including Michael Auker and his family and friends from Devils Lake, N.D.

“We wanted to come look at a bunch of cool airplanes,” Auker said as he waited in line to see the inside of one of dozens of military planes staged on show grounds. “This really gets the kids involved and lets them see the stuff that they usually only see in the sky.”

The event, supported in part by Nodak Electric Cooperative and Minnkota Power Cooperative, was to feature food truck vendors, informational sponsor booths, and a full afternoon of physics-defying flights from airborne acts like the famous Thunderbirds. However, sustained high winds forced every set of wings to remain grounded. 

“Even though the windstorm was a challenge,” said Lea Greene, chief of public affairs for the 319th Reconnaissance Wing, “it was incredible to open the gates to our friends and neighbors to show off their Air Force base, tour aircraft and look at some of the technology we use every day.”

“The GFAFB and the personnel living and working there have been such a big part of our community and the state of North Dakota over the years,” said Nodak Electric CEO Mylo Einarson. “Anything we can do to support them so they can focus on their mission is the least we could do.”

Nodak’s support of the GFAFB doesn’t stop with event sponsorship. The co-op has been a proud partner of the base for decades and, in 2018, signed a utilities privatization (UP) agreement with GFAFB to make Nodak the owner and operator of all of the community’s electric infrastructure. This partnership allows faster, safer, and more thorough electric service to the base’s residents.

“Over the last several years since we’ve become the GFAFB’s utility privatization contractor, our already strong relationship has developed further on more of an individual level with the servicemen and women and their families,” Einarson said.

The base is hoping for better weather for their next air show event, which is tentatively planned for 2025. Until then (and beyond), Nodak will continue to be there to light up the lives of the folks who serve our country. “I’m excited about the future of the GFAFB, and am looking forward to Nodak being a part of it,” Einarson said.

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Electric Vehicles – More Savings, More Convenience, More Fun

Nodak Electric Cooperative members know the benefits of off-peak charging firsthand

First Published October 2021 – Editor’s Note: Nodak Electric Cooperative was saddened to learn of the sudden loss of Tony Telken in 2021 – our hearts are with his family and friends. He was a terrific member of the community and of our co-op. Tony had a passion for cars, and we, with the blessing of his wife Tracy, hope to honor him by sharing that passion with our readers.

It’s safe to say Tony Telken knows cars. He’s the service manager at a Grand Forks Ford dealership, so he understands what makes a well-oiled machine. He also understands some of the best machines don’t need oil. Or gas.

Tony and his wife Tracy with their all-electric 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Early in 2021, Tony and his wife Tracy became the owners of an all-electric 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E. They were one of the first 5,000 in the country to reserve one, allowing them to acquire the coveted First Edition model. 

“Everything you read about it is true – it’s spunky, and Tracy is a spunky driver,” Tony said with a nod to his wife. “Just a smidge,” she replied, smiling.

By the time the electric vehicle (EV) rolled into their garage, these Nodak Electric Cooperative members were set up to plug in. Tony had called his cooperative after reading about their off-peak EV charging program and rebates, and Nodak sent a representative to the Telken home to see what they might need in their garage. The couple purchased a charger and an electrician stopped by to route the right wiring. It was a fast process, and the cooperative’s $500 rebate took care of the entire cost of the charging unit.

With a 250-mile range, the Telkens only have to charge the Mach-E once a week. They can do that overnight when electric demand is lower, earning them the reduced off-peak electric rate – approximately half of the standard rate. They barely even notice it on their bill.

“A tank of gas at today’s rate would cost us about $50. And we don’t have that anymore. We’ve probably paid that much in electricity the whole time we’ve had it,” Tony said. “It’s huge savings.”

The Telkens’ EV has already conquered the Grand Forks winter. Each wheel on the all-wheel-drive model has its own electric motor that determines how the car should react. “The traction has been fantastic in the snow. You don’t sit and spin. You GO,” Tracy said. “I had that fear before, and I love it.”

Tony knows auto manufacturers like Ford have spent a lot of time and investment perfecting EV technology for every kind of driver – from vehicle service managers to first-time drivers.

“It’s way easier than you think, and the investment is minimal,” he said. “It’s so nice to drive right by the gas pump.”

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Pole Top Rescue Training

Nodak Electric pole top rescue training was held in June. Training is facilitated through NDAREC (North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives).

Each year our lineworkers, along with the GFAFB airmen, review what to do in the case of an emergency that involves a fellow crew member. At this time, lineworkers re-certify their climbing skills and practice different emergency scenarios. If a lineworker was to have an emergency while climbing a pole, the training would ensure another lineworker would be able to rescue them, lower individuals safely to the ground, and begin first aid. Using different rigging combinations lets the lineworkers practice for a variety of situations. Nodak always puts safety first, and by performing safety training, the cooperative is assuring that our employees are properly trained to handle any situation. 

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North Dakota Electric Cooperative Youth Tour

Morgan Hallgren returned from the Youth Tour all smiles. She said, “I had such an amazing time in Washington, D.C. Our days were filled with different museums and sights. It was all so eye opening, and I learned so much about our country, its history and electric cooperatives. I am so thankful that I was chosen to go and was surrounded by such good people.”

The North Dakota Electric Cooperative Youth Tour has brought high school students to the nation’s capital for a week in June every year since the late 1950s. Morgan Hallgren won this year’s Nodak Electric Cooperative essay contest and received an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., courtesy of the cooperative.

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Balancing The Energy Transition

As I’ve noted before in past columns, the energy industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation as consumer demand for more renewable energy sources grows, and innovation and technology continue to advance. You’re likely witnessing this energy evolution firsthand. 

In driving across the region, you may have noticed a significant increase in the number of wind turbines dotting the landscape. Maybe you’ve heard about the impending changes in the transportation sector with most major vehicle companies announcing plans to offer more electric vehicles at more affordable prices. 

Consumer interest in renewable energy is strong and growing. In addition, national studies indicate that consumers have an expectation that companies operate in an ethical and responsible manner – including when it comes to the environment.

To borrow a nautical analogy, it takes a long time to turn the direction of a large ship, and changing the energy mix we use to power homes and businesses doesn’t happen overnight. While renewable energy use is increasing, we are still depending on traditional forms of energy to keep power flowing reliably to your home. After all, solar and wind energy are referred to as “intermittent” power since the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow. This fact, coupled with the growing demand for renewables, creates its own challenges. That’s why there is real value in maintaining a balanced mixture of fuel types to ensure reliability and resiliency and meet the growing demand for electricity. 

Our wholesale power currently comes from a diverse mix of coal, wind, and hydro sources. From a capacity perspective, that generation portfolio is comprised of 42% renewable sources. Transitioning to even more sustainable sources may be achievable and for some, even desirable, but it would not be done without decades of planning and a significant capital investment. 

In this issue of the Nodak Neighbor, as well as on our website, you will find an article describing the instability of the region’s electric grid. This instability has come about largely due to the replacement of coal, nuclear and natural gas baseload, and dispatchable power plants with intermittent sources. The regional transmission operator has even predicted capacity shortfalls in the region this summer. This article highlights the reality of what we’ve been saying for a long time. If our nation transitions away from baseload thermal sources like coal and natural gas too quickly, reliability will suffer dramatically. At the end of the day, our mission will be to continue to do what we can to provide our member-owners with safe, affordable, reliable electricity.

At Nodak Electric, we have always put the good of our community and our members first. While our primary function is to provide reliable and affordable energy to our members, we are more than an electricity provider. Because we are a co-op, our mission is to enrich the lives of our members and to serve the long-term interests of our community. We feel we’re doing both.

“Concern for Community” is one of the cooperative principles that Nodak Electric is committed to. Our team demonstrated that commitment by helping out the Sertoma Club of Greater Grand Forks. They installed poles for a new archway in Sertoma Park.

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Keep the lights on during the energy transition

Keep the lights on during the energy transition
By Jim Matheson and Mac McLennan

Dozens of states in the most powerful nation in the world may struggle to keep the lights on this summer.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But absent a shift in policy and coordination between federal and state governments, this is the energy reality our nation will face for years to come.

Reliable electricity has been a staple in America for more than half a century. But that’s no longer a certainty. Organizations across the nation have sounded the alarm: reliable electricity may be in jeopardy this summer. That’s inexcusable.

Minnkota Power Cooperative utilizes a diverse mix of coal, wind and hydro resources to meet the 24/7 needs of electricity consumers in eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. While this power portfolio is strong, Minnkota does not operate on the electric grid alone. Utilities across the Upper Midwest and down to Louisiana are interconnected through the larger Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) grid. Challenges in other areas of this system can and do have impacts on Minnkota and its members.

MISO expects to face a high risk of reliability challenges during both “normal and extreme conditions.” If demand for electricity exceeds the available supply, MISO could implement controlled power outages to avoid catastrophic damage to the power grid.

Some are quick to blame these newfound reliability threats on changing or more extreme weather patterns. That’s part of the story, but there’s a deeper problem that must be acknowledged.

Spurred by policy and market factors, the ongoing energy transition has prioritized premature baseload coal and nuclear plant closures without considering the collective impact on the power grid and the availability of feasible technology to fully replace them. That’s proving to be a dangerous misstep.

In MISO alone, 3,200 megawatts of electric generating capacity have shut down in the past year. That’s enough to keep the lights on in 2.8 million homes. And electricity demand is forecast to rise by nearly 2% this summer.

To put it simply, new power-generating projects in some of the largest electricity markets haven’t caught up with plant closures—jeopardizing reliability in the process.

Policymakers should recalibrate their focus on a common-sense energy transition that doesn’t risk reliability or punish low-income families and our economy. Those choices don’t need to be at odds.

Driven by a focus on keeping the lights on, America’s electric cooperatives have demonstrated what a responsible energy transition can look like. Electric co-ops substantially lowered their carbon emissions by 23% between 2005 and 2020, the equivalent of taking nearly 9 million cars off the road. They’ve also invested in energy innovation technologies to help meet tomorrow’s electricity needs with speed and flexibility.

In Minnkota’s case, approximately 42% of its generation capacity is already derived from carbon-free resources. The cooperative is also working to advance Project Tundra – an effort to build one of the world’s largest carbon capture systems at a coal-based power plant in North Dakota. If the proposed project moves ahead, it would help retain a reliable and resilient power generator, while also significantly reducing Minnkota’s carbon emissions.

The energy transition must consider threats to reliability and focus on the importance of allowing adequate time, technology development and the construction of desperately needed transmission lines to move electricity within regional markets. It is overambitious to believe this can happen by the current federal target of 2035.

Today’s energy policy decisions will determine whether the threat of grid reliability challenges is our new energy reality. As state and federal policymakers re-evaluate their energy transition proposals in the wake of sobering summer reliability challenges, they should:

  • Prioritize an adequate supply of always-available power resources to balance the increasing reliance on renewable energy.
  • Promote the development of new transmission lines to carry electricity from where it’s generated to where it’s most needed.
  • Facilitate coordinated, consistent, and timely agency permitting to speed the construction and maintenance of electric transmission and other critical grid infrastructure.
  • Provide electric cooperatives access to the same level of energy innovation incentives that for-profit utilities have enjoyed for years.

When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. Failure is not an acceptable option for the consumers and communities we serve.

Jim Matheson is CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association that represents the nation’s more than 900 not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives. He previously served seven terms as a U.S. representative from Utah.

 Mac McLennan is CEO of Minnkota Power Cooperative, the wholesale electricity provider for 11 member cooperatives in eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.


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New Facility Enhances Service To GFAFB

Nodak Electric Cooperative took its support of the Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB) to the next level in 2021 with the addition of a unique service center. The 4,500-square-foot facility is government funded as a part of a utilities privatization (UP) agreement between the co-op and GFAFB. The agreement, signed in 2018, made Nodak the owner and operator of the electric infrastructure on the base. The new on-site service center will allow crews to serve the base and its residents more quickly, safely and thoroughly.

Nodak will use the new facility in several ways. A classroom inside the building will help train Nodak line and base personnel on the electrical systems of the GFAFB, both overhead and underground. There is also office space for crew members who need work stations during a job on the base. A large portion of the square footage is warehouse storage space for utility vehicles and materials used to maintain the electrical distribution system.

“The fact that we will have equipment and material at our on-base warehouse means it will take less time to restore power to base residents,” said Dan Schaefer, Nodak line superintendent. “Otherwise, we would have to run to Grand Forks for material. Any time we can restore service in a timely manner, it makes Nodak and GFAFB stronger partners.”

The construction of the service center happened right in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it ultimately took 14 months from start to finish. Meetings have already taken place at the facility, and crews continue to add office furniture and shelving to make the space more functional.

“Having a facility of this quality makes our jobs of maintaining the electrical system on the GFAFB easier,” Schaefer said.


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Lending A Helping Hand

“Cooperation Among Cooperatives” is one of the cooperative principles Nodak Electric values above all else, and our team lived that principle in early May. Nodak crews headed west to Burke-Divide Electric Cooperative to assist with restoration efforts after the co-op’s service area was hit with a devastating late April storm. Ice buildup from the weather system knocked out power for not only Burke-Divide members, but also for co-ops in the surrounding area.

Crews in the west were working around the clock to fix these outages, and co-ops across the state started to step in to lend a hand. On Monday, May 2, eight Nodak lineworkers traveled to the site of the destruction to help restore power. We are grateful to have such a hardworking and dedicated crew, and we wish all of the best to our co-op neighbors.

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