Uselman named Member Service Manager

Allison Uselman, Member Service Manager

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative is pleased to announce Allison Uselman as the Member Service Manager.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative and this community!” said Allison. “My goal is to learn from this very talented team and contribute new ideas to together serve our members and the community in the best way possible!  I am very eager to get out into the community and to start building relationships.”

Allison is familiar with the area as she grew up in Wadena. She graduated from Wadena Deer Creek High school and went on to obtain her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota. Allison is moving back to the area with her fiancé Bryan and two boys, Brandon and Benjamin. When she is not working, Allison enjoys spending time outdoors with her family.

Allison has over 10 years of leadership, business development, and customer service experience. Prior to joining Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative, Allison served as a General Manager for Kohl’s as well as a Field Operations Manager/Business Consultant for Winmark Corporation in Minneapolis.

“We are excited to have Allison Uselman join our team at Todd-Wadena. Allison’s business, marketing and customer engagement experience will be a great asset for our cooperative,” said Robin Doege, President/CEO of Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative.

 

Kaija Weishalla wins Washington, D.C. Youth Tour trip

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative is proud to announce that Kaija Weishalla, a sophomore at Bertha-Hewitt High School, has been selected as the cooperative’s 2018 Youth Tour representative.  She will join approximately 40 Minnesota students and 1,600 other students from around the nation, for the 2018 Electric Cooperative Youth Tour to Washington, D.C., June 9-14.

Kaija Weishalla

“Kaija will gain a first-hand understanding of the legislative process and make connections with others from across the country that will last a lifetime,” said Kallie Van De Venter, Communications Specialist and Youth Tour coordinator for Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative. “Our youth are the future for our community and our country, and we can give them the tools to succeed. Todd-Wadena looks forward to continuing our tradition of contributing to the education of our youth.”

Kaija is the daughter of John and Karla Weishalla of Bertha. “One of the biggest reasons I would love to participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity is to learn more about cooperatives, our country, and how it is run,” said Kaija. Her favorite subject in school is history and enjoys learning about different inventors, politicians, and government officials that have impacted our country.

This all-expense paid trip is a part of an annual Youth Tour sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) and Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative. Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson inspired the Youth Tour when he addressed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Annual Meeting in Chicago in 1957. The Senator and future President declared, “If one thing comes out of this meeting, it will be sending youngsters to the national capital where they can actually see what the flag stands for and represents.”

The Youth Tour program continues to foster the grassroots spirit of the rural electric cooperatives by demonstrating to our youth how our government works and what the electric cooperative business model is all about. Building the next generation of leaders is what the Youth Tour program is all about. Many former Youth Tour representatives have moved on to serve in significant position in our communities, including members of congress. In a time when energy is at the forefront of our nation’s issues, this is a great opportunity to have a hand in the creation of electric cooperative advocates!

Students on the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour will participate in leadership training, engage in one-on-one conversations with elected officials, jumpstart their national peer network and tour the famous sites of Washington, D.C.  The tour includes visits to the Smithsonian, the National Archives, Arlington National Cemetery, the WWII, Vietnam, Korean War Veteran’s Memorials as well as the Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln and MLK, Jr. Memorials, and much more.

Local Projects Receive Grants

Giving back to the community we serve is a core cooperative principal.  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 12 Operation Round Up grants to local non-profit organizations, totaling $8,682.20.

The recipient organizations and their awards are as follows:

Christie Home Historical Society, $300; Get Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs, $750; Clarissa Community Museum, Inc., $1,000; Friendly Rider, $300. Knobhill Sportsmans Club & Mi-ti-Quab Archers, $1,000; Staples-Motley JO Volleyball, $300; Sebeka Babe Ruth, $900; Staples-Motley Middle School Baseball, $937.20; Todd County Sheriff’s Office, $1,080; Verndale Historical Society, $1,000; Wadena Area Learning Center, $615; Wadena Deer Creek School, $500.

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, Todd-Wadena members have raised and donated more than $480,000 for more than 600 local community projects.

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 at www.toddwadena.coop and clicking the “Our Community” tab.

 

Menahga Area Gardeners Awarded Local Touchstone Energy Community Award

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative names Menahga Area Gardeners the winner of the 2017 Touchstone Energy Community Award.

Todd-Wadena’s board chairman Mike Thorson presented the award to Menahga Area Gardeners members Arlette Markkula and Harry Samuelson. The Menahga Area Gardeners also received $500 to be used towards their gardening projects.

“Menahga Area Gardeners clearly demonstrates a strong commitment to community that we at Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative value highly,” Thorson said. “We are very pleased to recognize their contributions to our local community.”

Menahga Area Gardeners was organized in 1992. The group’s purpose is to educate members and the community in all phases of gardening, horticultural practices, and flower arranging. They also promote civic beauty and aid in the conservation of natural resources.

One of the ongoing projects for Menahga Area Gardeners is the Memorial Garden. For more than 25 years, area gardeners have been volunteering their time to maintain this space where visitors come to relax and enjoy nature. The garden has hosted many weddings and family gatherings throughout the years. Many organizations meet in the gazebo throughout the seasons. The Menahga Area

Gardeners hope that everyone who visits the garden leaves with a rejuvenated spirit.

Menahga Area Gardener’s award application will be submitted for consideration in the statewide Minnesota Touchstone Energy Community Award. The statewide award recipient will be selected from local award winners from around Minnesota. The winning organization will receive $1,000 to go toward its community cause. The Minnesota Touchstone Energy Community Award will be presented to the award recipient in March, during the Minnesota Rural Electric Association’s annual meeting in St. Paul.

Safety tips for when the power goes out

When the lights go out, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative (TWEC) crews are hard at work finding ways to restore power for their members.GRE_Be Safe_Power Lines Summer 2016_Color

“Their first priority is always safety,” said Kallie Van De Venter, Communications Specialist for TWEC. “Crews give immediate attention to dangerous situations, such as power lines down on roadways or streets. Typically local police or fire station personnel are called to secure the area until our crews can restore power to the area. Sometimes tree crews must clear tree branches or limbs from the area before repairs can be made.”

TWEC crews work with employees from Great River Energy, our wholesale electric supplier, to restore power quickly and safely.

While they’re working to restore your power, consider the five following tips:

  1. Stay away from downed power lines.
  2. Treat all power lines as though they’re energized.
  3. If you run over a downed power line, stay in your vehicle and call 911.
  4. If you use a backup generator, follow the instructions in the owner’s manual for safe operation.
  5. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to maintain a cool temperature.

“We want all of our members to be safe during an outage, which involves taking time to ensure you know how to use your backup generator and avoid downs power lines,” Van De Venter said.

Visit greatrivernergy.com/restoringyourpower to watch short videos on generator safety, food safety, how to prepare an emergency kit and more. Click on the playlist icon in the upper left-hand corner of the video box.

What should YOU do when the power goes out?

When the lights go out, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative crews are hard at work finding ways to restore power for their members.

“Their first priority is always safety,” said Kallie Van De Venter, the Communications Specialist for Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative. “We always start with the more dangerous situations, such as power lines down on homes, roadways or streets.” Typically local police or fire station personnel are called to secure the area until TWEC crews can restore power to the area. Sometimes tree crews must clear tree branches or limbs from the area before repairs can be made. Todd-Wadena crews work with employees from Great River Energy, our wholesale electric supplier, to restore power quickly and safely.

“We want everyone to be safe during an outage, which means members should take time to make sure you know how to use your backup generator, and to avoid downed power lines,” Van De Venter said.
Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative’s website, which now has an easy-to-use mobile site (www.toddwadena.coop) contains many resources regarding safety during and after storms.

Click on the Outage Information button on the main page. You’ll find a link to the ‘Be Red Cross Ready’ Power Outage Checklist and a checklist for emergency preparedness. You can also view short videos about

• Food Safety During an Outage
• How to Prepare an Emergency Kit
• Automatic Garage Doors during an Outage.

You can also visit greatrivernergy.com/restoringyourpower to watch short videos on generator safety, food safety, how to prepare an emergency kit, and more. Click on the ‘playlist’ icon in the upper left-hand corner of the video box.

While we’re working to restore your power, consider the following tips:

• Stay away from downed power lines.
• Treat all power lines as though they’re energized.
• If you run over a downed power line, stay in your vehicle and call 911.
• If you use a backup generator, follow the instructions in the owner’s manual for safe operation.
• Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to maintain a cool temperature.

Click HERE for information on how TWEC restores your power after an outage

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.

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.

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.