Operation Round Up donates $7,270 to local organizations

Giving back to the community we serve is a core cooperative principle. The Operation Round Up Program from Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative is a great way for the co-op and its members to give back.
Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative’s Community Trust Board recently met and awarded 8 Operation Round Up grants to local non-profit organizations, totaling of $7,270.
Funds for the Operation Round Up program come from participating Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative members who allow their monthly electric bills to be rounded up to the nearest dollar, with the change allocated to a Community Trust Fund. The average donation is less than 50 cents a month, yet together, members raise and donate about $30,000 annually to community service projects in the two-county area.
Since the program’s inception in 2002, more than 650 local service projects have been funded a total of $450,000.
Todd-Wadena’s Operation Round Up grant applications are reviewed and recipients selected three times a year by a seven-member volunteer Community Trust board. The next application deadline will be May 15.
Local, nonprofit community service groups may apply for Operation Round Up grants by stopping by or calling the Cooperative office at 800-321-8932 or by downloading a copy of the application form and guidelines from on our website: toddwadena.coop/our-community/roundup/

How Wind Power Works

The energy industry is changing. As technology advances, the use of electricity delivered by renewable energy sources is growing. Many Americans are interested in harnessing energy from the sun through the use of solar panels, but you might be surprised to learn that wind, as a renewable energy source, is a much larger contributor to America’s diverse energy mix . Wind accounts for 4.7 percent of our nation’s fuel mix.
So how is wind harvested? In simplest terms, the wind turns a propeller that is connected to a generator via a gear box; these parts are contained in a housing called a nacelle. This mechanical connection increases the revolutions of the blades from a leisurely 15-20 revolutions per minute (rpm) to 1,800 rpm at the generator, where wind becomes electricity.
As the wind changes direction, the nacelle turns the blades to continue generating. When wind farms are laid out, the placement of the turbines is strategically planned so the turbulence from one turbine does not interfere with the operation of others behind it. The turbines also have protective mechanisms built in that will furl the blades once a certain wind speed is reached to prevent the turbine from spinning itself to pieces.
Like everything else, technology is driving the development of larger capacity wind turbines. Earlier models of turbines had the capacity to produce 660 kW (kilowatts) to 1 MW (megawatts) of power. Current models have the capacity to produce 1.2 to 2 MW. And turbines able to produce 12 to 21 MW are currently being tested and developed. Larger capacity is critical to production because of Metz’s Law. This theory was developed in 1919 by Albert Metz and stated that a wind generator would be able to convert a maximum of 59.3 percent of wind energy into electricity. Larger capacity equates to more output.
Next, why are there typically three blades on a turbine? Single blade turbines have been found to be unstable in operation. Adding a second blade increases output by 10 percent. Adding a third blade increases output by 5 percent. Each additional blade increases the output, but the increase is considered small––and the increased cost of materials and construction make it uneconomical––so, three blades has become the norm.
Because of the enormous stresses the blades face––and the need for lighter weight––the blades are typically built from resin impregnated composite materials. The most common form of construction is molding epoxy soaked fiberglass into the desired shape with cores of balsa wood. Anyone who has ever built a balsa wood model airplane will question this, as those assemblies are extremely fragile. However, balsa’s light weight and composition make it an excellent contributor to the stability and durability of these monster blades.
The largest blade being produced today is 75 meters (m) in length, just a bit less than the wingspan of an Airbus A380 !
In the wind generation game, height is a critical consideration. Near the surface of the earth, wind conditions become unstable and erratic as the sun warms the ground. The temperature difference between the ground and the air creates effects like wind shear, which can make efficient operation difficult. At higher levels, undesirable ground effects rapidly diminish and wind speed becomes much more consistent.
The U.S. Government and other agencies produce wind speed maps at a number of heights. Today’s standard wind speed map uses a height of 80 meters. When a company looks to develop a commercial wind farm, they use these maps to locate areas where they can find a consistent 13 mph wind speed or higher. [Readers can learn more about wind speed maps here: http://www.nrel.gov/gis/wind.html]
A key challenge facing wind and solar energy is variability. The output of solar and wind, for example, can vary significantly over short periods, like when the wind stops blowing or the sun goes behind a cloud. One way to deal with that issue is energy storage, an advancing technology that will equip electric co-ops to beat peak energy prices and save members money.
For now, wind and solar are best deployed as components of a diverse energy portfolio that also includes traditional generating resources, but continued technological developments will ensure more reliable power from renewable resources in the future.

Sebeka Community Asset Builders wins Touchstone Award

TWEC Board Chair Mike Thorson presents the Touchstone Energy COmmunity Award to Sebeka Comunity Asset Bilders representatives, Sheree Polman and Becca Pulju.

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative is proud to announce that Sebeka Community Asset Builders was the winner of the 2016 Touchstone Energy Community Award.
TWEC Board Chair Mike Thorson recently presented the award, along with $500, to Sheree Polman and Becca Pulju, two representatives of Sebeka Community Asset Builders.
Sebeka Community Asset Builders promotes, supports, and provides activities for the youth in their community. They have built relationships between families, children, and adults to make their community stronger.
Sebeka Community Asset Builders has sponsored holiday parties for Halloween, Christmas, and Easter, they have organized events for the community, like Sebeka’s National Night Out, and they’ve been a sponsor for Red Eye River Days, teen pool parties and teen track and field days.
S.C.A.B. has demonstrated that they are very dedicated to their community, and they are tireless in their efforts to bring quality and creative events for people of all ages to participate and enjoy.
“Sebeka Community Asset Builders clearly demonstrates a strong commitment to our community and its families, that we at Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative value highly,” Thorson said. “We are very pleased to recognize their contributions to our local community.

Candidates Selected for Director Elections

TWEC Annual Meeting, April 20

The 2017 Nominating committee met on Jan. 19 to select candidates for the 2017 TWEC Board of Directors elections. Three seats on the Todd-Wadena Board of Directors will expire at the Annual Meeting, April 20.
The committee nominated the three directors’, who’s terms expire this year: Gene Kern (Sebeka), Norm Krause (Staples) and Dale Adams (Aldrich), as well as Mark Houle (Sebeka) and Conrad Stoterau (Eagle Bend).
Profiles of each of the 5 candidates will be printed in the March issue of the Pine to Prairie newsletter, as well as on our website, www.toddwadena.coop. The profiles will also be included in the ballot packets that will be mailed to all members. Ballot packets with voting instructions will be mailed to all members on March 15, 2017, from Survey and Ballot Systems, based in Eden Prairie, MN. Survey and Ballot Systems will also receive, scan and tabulate ballots that members complete and return, using the pre-addressed, pre-stamped envelopes that will be provided.
Members may also vote by attending the Annual Meeting on Thursday, April 20, 2017, at Memorial Auditorium in Wadena. The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. followed by a meal for all members.

Improving Rural Broadband

By Robin Doege, President/CEO

Last year I wrote about TWEC’s desire to promote rural broadband in our service area. So, in 2016 the TWEC board commissioned a broadband feasibility study to determine what it would take to provide quality broadband service to all TWEC members. This feasibility study was made possible with a grant from the Blandin Foundation Robust Network Feasibility Fund.
TWEC electrically serves about 8,800 members in Todd and Wadena counties with a density of about 3.5 members per line mile. Approximately 4,200 of TWEC members do not have access to high quality broadband.
The TWEC broadband feasibility study results indicated:
• Approximately 4,200 TWEC members do not have access to quality broadband service.
• A fiber network buildout to TWEC’s unserved membership would require about 1,100 miles of main line fiber and 370 miles of service drop fiber.
• The average cost to build, per subscriber, is in the range of $11,000 to $17,000 per subscriber.
• The “all in” cost to provide quality broadband to unserved members in TWEC’s service area is between $40 and $50 million. This includes fiber installation, associated materials, and equipment.
The primary challenge for this project, like many others in rural Minnesota, is the sparse population of the areas to be served. Without significant grant funding, projects like this one in TWEC’s service area, are not possible.
With that said, TWEC will continue to promote rural broadband in our service area. We are encouraged by the rural broadband discussions, both at the state and federal levels. Like rural electrification, TWEC will continue to lead “a community in action” to make quality broadband service available to our members.

Electric Cooperatives Lead Minnesota Innovation

David Saggau gives his keynote presentation at CEE’s policy forum on electric co-op innovation.  Mr. Saggau is the President and CEO of Great River Energy.


Duplicative Regulation Only Costs Members

By Robin Doege, President/CEO

Electric cooperatives are member-owned and operated. That means member-owners make decisions for their cooperative together through a democratic process. Member-owners elect a governing board from within the membership that is tasked with balancing the interests of the community in setting rates and policies. This local democratic process has worked well since the founding of electric cooperatives for nearly 100 years.
However, a regulatory process in place for investor-owned utilities is upsetting the tradition of local democratic control and costing member-owner’s money. Through Minnesota Statute, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the regulator for investor-owned utilities, can impose additional regulation on locally regulated cooperatives and municipal utilities. This additional regulation is time-consuming (with reviews taking years) and costly (utilities are assessed for the administrative costs of the regulation). Last year an electric cooperative was assessed $40,000 after the PUC re-regulated a local decision on an incremental charge ($5 a month) to recover costs of interconnection. The cost of interconnection is required to be recovered per Minnesota law. The review took months and the $40,000 assessment doesn’t consider the cooperative staff time.
The duplicative regulation by the PUC only costs member’s money while offering no benefit. The local regulatory body provides the same service as the PUC, applying the laws of Minnesota while balancing the interest of the ratepayers. However, with local regulators, if a member-owner disagrees with the balancing of member interests they have a direct remedy, the local democratic process.
For nearly 100 years’ member-owned electric cooperatives have governed themselves locally, providing the safe, affordable, and reliable service their community wants and needs. Please join us in asking the legislature to eliminate duplicative regulation of consumer-owned utilities.
(Editors Note: Information provided by the MREA.)

Energy savings for every season

While saving money through greater energy efficiency may be a year-round objective for many consumers, the way to achieve this goal will vary by season. There are a number of factors that impact energy efficiency, including weather, the age and condition of the home, and desired comfort levels. During fall and winter months, when the outdoor temperature is chilly, consumers desire a warm home and seek to keep the cold air out. Conversely, in the spring and summer, the focus is on keeping the hot air from infiltrating cool abodes.

Fall and winter:   Keeping heat in

Where to insulate your home

Where to insulate your home

To maintain a warm indoor environment in chillier weather, there are simple steps you can take to increase energy efficiency. Fall is a great time to examine seals on doors and windows to check for air leaks. Caulk and weatherstrip as needed to seal in warm air and energy savings. Similarly, examine outlets for air leaks, and where necessary, install gaskets around the outlet to prevent drafts.

During the day, open curtains or drapes on south-facing windows to enable sunlight to heat your home naturally. Close curtains or drapes at night for an added layer of window insulation.
As the temperature drops lower with the onset of winter, schedule a service appointment for your heating system to ensure it is operating at an optimal level. Low-cost or no-cost steps for energy savings include taping or affixing heavy, clear plastic to the inside of your window frames to create an additional barrier against cold air.

Ensure that the plastic is tightly sealed to the frame to help reduce infiltration. Use a programmable thermostat to set the temperature as low as is comfortable when you are home (ideally around 68 degrees). When you are asleep or away, turn the temperature down 10-15 degrees for eight hours. According to the Department of Energy, this small adjustment can help you save approximately 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs.
Moreover, using a ceiling fan in conjunction with your heat or air conditioning can allow you to increase the thermostat setting to approximately four degrees with no reduction in comfort levels.

Spring and summer: keeping your cool

During warmer months, energy savings and efficiency will require different measures, many of which are inexpensive. If you live in a climate that is cool, open your windows in the evening and turn off your cooling system while sleeping. In the morning, shut the widows and blinds to hold in the cool air. Where practical, plant trees and shrubs that provide shade in warm months and sunlight in winter. In addition to the aesthetic value, well placed trees can take heat gain from the sun and provide needed shade by creating a canopy for the house.

In extremely hot weather, your cooling system works harder to close the gap between the high outdoor temperature and the cool indoor thermostat setting. To lessen the difference in temperature between the two, and to lower cooling costs, set the thermostat as high as you can while maintaining your comfort level. Moreover, using a ceiling fan in conjunction with your air conditioning can allow you to increase the thermostat setting to approximately four degrees with no reduction in comfort levels.

During the hottest months, it’s all the more critical to replace any remaining incandescent bulbs with LEDs. The waste heat from the old bulbs impacts energy use and creates wasteful and unwanted heat. Employ a programmable thermostat to adjust the settings a few degrees higher when no one is home or your family is sleeping.

home-tourFor more help on making your home more efficient, go online to www.touchstoneenergy.com/together-we-save/overview, and take the Home Tour.
To learn more about additional energy-saving tips and programs, contact TWEC at 218-631-3120.

Simple Tips for Teaching Kids Ways to Conserve Energy

Identify things that rarely get used but stay plugged in. Then, fix the situation. Have this be an activity for your children. Have them take inventory of the house. They can identify what is plugged in, what gets used and how often, and if it should be unplugged.

Screen Free Time– Limit screen-time or eliminate screen-time during the school week.2016_10_ds_energyexplorers_energyvampireactivity
Cozy Comfort– Lower your thermostat during the winter and encourage children to build forts, cuddle up for family time, and put on extra clothes to keep warm.

Light Police– Make your kiddo the light police, complete with a police costume. Give your kid the job to turn out all the lights. Your kids will love running through the house finding ways they can help conserve energy.

Night Night Power– Make conserving energy part of your bedtime routine. Your child can walk around the house and say goodnight to everything while you turn off the smart surge protectors.

Draft Snake– Use old socks to make an awesome draft snake that you can place in front of doors and windows to help cut down on any energy loss.

Energy Lessons– After installing solar panels or a smart thermostat, you can use the charts and comparisons of before and after to teach science and math.

Kid Powered Dinner– One night a week, have your kids help you create a meal with no electricity. We love salad, but I am sure you could get creative.

Toothy Tunes– Encourage children to turn of the faucet while they brush their hands by playing their favorite song while they brush at a whisper volume. They will HAVE to turn the water off to hear their favorite tune while they brush.

Energy Treasure Hunt– Have children put on their detective suits and go hunting for energy wasters like cords still plugged in, faucets dripping, electronics left on.
Teaching children ways to conserve energy doesn’t have to be hard. With the new Direct Energy Smart Thermostat, you can teach children the value of conserving energy while upgrading your home with some of the coolest smart technology out there.

Don’t be fooled by common energy myths

Eating carrots will greatly improve your eyesight, cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis, watching too much TV will harm your vision. We’ve all heard the old wives’ tales, but did you know there are also many misconceptions about home energy use? Don’t be fooled by common energy myths.2016_10_ds_eff_ovenefficiencytip

Myth: The higher the thermostat setting, the faster the home will heat (or cool).
Many people think that walking into a chilly room and raising the thermostat to 85 degrees will heat the room more quickly. This is not true.
Thermostats direct a home’s HVAC system to heat or cool to a certain temperature. Drastically adjusting the thermostat setting will not make a difference in how quickly you feel warmer. The same is true for cooling. The Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 78 degrees during summer months, and 68 degrees during winter months.

Myth: Opening the oven door to check on a dish doesn’t really waste energy.
While it can be tempting to check the progress of that dish you’re cooking in the oven, opening the oven door does waste energy. Every time the oven door is opened, the temperature inside is reduced by as much as 25 degrees, delaying the progress of your dish and, more importantly, costing you additional money. If you need to check the progress of a dish, try using the oven light instead.

Myth: Ceiling fans keep your home cool while you’re away.
Believe it or not, many people think this is true. Ceiling fans cool people, not rooms. Ceiling fans circulate room air but do not change the temperature. A running ceiling fan in an empty room is only adding to your electricity use. Remember to turn fans off when you’re away and reduce your energy use.

Myth: Reducing my energy use is too expensive.
Many consumers believe that reducing energy use requires expensive up-front costs, like purchasing new, more efficient appliances or construction upgrades to an older home. But the truth is, consumers who make small changes to their energy efficiency habits, such as turning off lights when not in use, sealing air leaks and using a programmable thermostat, can see a reduction in energy consumption.
Remember, energy efficiency doesn’t have to be difficult. Focus on small changes to save big. Learn more about ways to save energy by visiting www.toddwadena.coop or calling 218-631-3120.