in electric supply stations, overhead and underground electric supply and communications lines. Iowa's electric cooperatives continuously stay abreast of any revisions to these codes and in training new staff.
Communicating in Times of Need
Iowa's electric cooperatives maintain their own radio network. The cooperatives monitor federal and state regulations regarding use of the radios. The Iowa Association of Electric Cooperative's staff also coordinates new frequency applications, works with manufacturers on the purchase of equipment statewide and oversees emergency radio rental during disaster situations. Ensuring clear radio communications during disasters is just one step of the emergency planning process for electric cooperatives. Other steps include:
Analyzing the Details
Co-ops keep detailed records of interruptions of service to help determine reasonable steps for preventing future recurrence of such interruptions. The average length of interruption per consumer are tracked annually in four major cause categories: power supplier, major storm, scheduled maintenance and all other (e.g., equipment breakdown or malfunction).
Some rural electric cooperatives have installed or are in the process of installing a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system. The Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system allows a co-op to monitor voltage and current values by circuit and phase for all substations. The Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system alerts the co-op's operations department when voltage levels fall outside the allowable range, when fault currents are detected, and when substation reclosers have locked out. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition-operated switches are installed at certain points on the system to remotely switch the load if there is a transmission outage to the substation.
Getting the Message Out
Communication with member-consumers about issues involving reliability also is a top priority. Iowa's electric cooperatives work together to inform member-consumers about peak times for energy consumption, the importance of knowing where overhead and underground lines exist before moving large equipment or digging, the process for reporting outages, and the approach used to restore power.
Information about reliability issues is communicated through annual and district meetings, co-op newsletters, Living with Energy in Iowa magazine, public service announcements and special mailings.
Electric cooperatives are committed to meeting the highest level of standards in providing power to their member-consumers in rural Iowa. At the forefront of all business operations is a consumer-driven approach to powering the communities and people served.
Energy Efficiency Programs
Iowa's electric cooperatives have initiated and implemented programs that encourage the efficient use of the members' resources, the cooperative's resources and our nation's natural resources. These programs put the interest of the memberconsumer first. The cooperatives' programs have resulted in savings in demand for energy through new energy efficient appliances and equipment, improved efficiencies of existing and new structures, and the changing attitude of the members.
Future programs will continue to be developed to encourage the efficient use of electricity, while ensuring the comfort and savings for the member-consumer.
Iowa's cooperatives are proactively developing and implementing energy efficiency programs to help decrease consumers' energy costs and to promote the wise use of energy. Some examples of these programs include energy audits, educational information, rebates to member-consumers or vendors of energy efficient products, research projects, installation of energy efficiency equipment and tree planting programs.
By design, Iowa's electric cooperatives go the extra mile to keep the cost of power affordable for their member-consumers.
While co-ops are continually monitoring the availability of new technologies and considering how to integrate renewable sources into the power mix, affordability and reliability for their members play key roles in balancing this delicate blend.
In Iowa, one of the most commonly discussed renewable energy sources is wind. There are two distinct approaches to tapping the power of wind. First, co-ops are purchasing wholesale wind energy from large-scale wind farms to broaden their overall energy supply. Several rural electric cooperative members also have benefited by leasing a portion of their land to wind farms.
The second approach is when a windmill is located on an individual's property to provide power to one residence or location. In this case, the home or business is still connected to REC lines to access electricity from the system and the wind turbine.
In the area of solar energy, photovoltaics show promise for worldwide acceptance and application. Photovoltaics generate electricity from the sun, are relatively simple in design, need very little maintenance and are environmentally benign. Examples of current uses include generating power for on- and offshore traffic control systems, crop irrigation systems, radio relay stations, and remote locations such as cabins and villages.
As a key energy source for Iowa's agricultural industry, rural electric cooperatives also are actively participating in the development and use of biomass-based energy. Biomass typically refers to organic material such as crops, crop waste, trees, wood waste and animal waste that can be converted to fuels and chemicals. Producing fuels and chemicals from biomass is not a completely new concept. Cellulose, ethanol, methanol, vegetable oils and a host of other biomass-based chemicals have been in use since the 1800s to make products like paint, glue, adhesives, synthetic cloth and solvents.
When it comes to working together to protect the environment, you can count on Iowa's electric cooperatives to operate in a responsible manner today and in the future.