Power Lines

Huber family with their Tesla model Y

It's electric!

Joey and Kristin Huber have been considering — consciously and subconsciously — the benefits of electricity for some time.

The Hubers are part of a growing number of people taking advantage of the benefits of using more electricity as part of a strategic plan to save money and reduce environmental impact. That, in turn, improves their quality of life and helps the stability of the entire electric grid.

Jarraff Industries’ all-terrain tree trimmer

Power protectors

It’s a common sight, especially during the spring and summer growing season — crews cutting away tree limbs and foliage that have gotten too close to nearby power lines.

Generally, anything within a set distance on either side of the lines, as well as above and below the lines, must come down to prevent contact — especially when storms roll through. Without ROW maintenance, obtrusive branches and limbs often can be blown into the lines, creating dangerous and costly power outages. 

Tietje family in front of solar panels

Solar power: Call us first

Nick and Amanda Kelly knew they were making a long-term investment, one they hoped would benefit not only their wallets, but the entire planet.

“It’s like most things that sound too good to be true,” says Andrew Finton, energy advisor for North Central Electric Cooperative, of which the Kellys are members. “The solar company either didn’t have or didn’t give them any information that is specific to connecting to the (co-op) system, and it would have made a big difference — things like our on- and off-peak rates and our demand charge that are designed to make our billing fair to all of our members. The numbers they were using to estimate the savings on their bill weren’t even close to real life.”

Ray Crock

Flying high at Camp Ohio

Summer camp means a week of adventure, and Camp Ohio does not disappoint. Every year, hundreds of 4-H’ers travel to Licking County to test their courage on a high ropes course, make wood-burning crafts and tie-dye T-shirts, and form lifelong friendships.

It seemed like a perfect activity for Camp Ohio, but the $10,000 price tag was far too steep for the nonprofit’s budget. Since the utility poles were the most expensive component, McConnell wondered if an electric cooperative would consider donating them to make the Flying Squirrel a reality for 4-H’ers.

McConnell ran the idea by Ray Crock, energy advisor at New Concord-based Guernsey-Muskingum Electric Cooperative, who was happy to help. An active 4-H’er growing up, Crock and his wife, Lisa, are longtime advisors for their children’s 4-H club, Flocks of Fun.

Project Ohio group

Powering up, powering through

Gathering a group of 16 linemen from across Ohio, leaving the security of home and family, and going to a remote part of Central America could never be considered a routine endeavor.

The day after they arrived in Guatemala, the team decided to make an impromptu stop in the village to check out the landscape of the job — to see the 67 homes and the school and get a look at the conditions they’d encounter.

lineworker in bucket

Co-op lineworkers: Always on

Weather forecasters knew it was a potentially devastating storm — a moisture-laden system rolling up from the Gulf of Mexico on a collision course with an arctic blast from the north, with Ohio right in the crosshairs.

“It was really just a good soaking rain that first night,” Martin says.

“We were getting a few calls, and it looked like some of our members might be out for as long as a day or two. Then when we woke up the next morning and saw it in the daylight, we knew it was a bad situation.”

Digital divide

Kyle Hicks sat at his computer at his Lancaster-area home, the homework assignment for his College Credit Plus course due in a few hours. He knew he was cutting it close.

Like a vast number of people in rural areas of Ohio and the rest of the nation, Hicks and his family have limited access to high-speed internet. The one company that provides broadband service where he lives promises connection speeds “up to 5 megabits per second,” but he says tests on the line show it’s rarely above 1 Mbps. What’s more, service in his area, even at that level, is expensive.

Satellite broadband could be an option but costs even more.

WiNUP members gather at their most recent national conference.

Empowering

Janet Rehberg, director of cooperative development at Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, began her electrical industry career as an engineer with AEP, designing the underground electrical systems for new housing developments.

Holly Huffman, communication support specialist at Indiana Electric Cooperatives (IEC), began her career in public relations. She worked for an agency for a while, as well as in the real estate industry, before a position opened up in the marketing department at Wabash Valley Power Alliance. “I didn’t know anything about the industry or what cooperatives were,” she says. “I just knew the electric company kept the lights on.” After eight years, she transitioned to her role at IEC, where she works with member cooperatives to produce content for Indiana’s cooperative-member magazine.

Suburban Columbus

Rural-to-suburban shift

Since electric co-ops were first established during the 1930s, they have served mainly rural areas of the United States.

“We continually beat the drum among our members about what the co-op is,” says Phil Caskey, president and CEO of Consolidated Cooperative, which serves eight counties in north-central Ohio. Caskey says that many residents of suburban areas, as well as former suburbanites who move into rural areas, are unaware of the differences between electric co-ops and large, privately owned electric utilities. In addition, rural co-op members tend to have a better understanding of the co-op’s place in the community, he says.