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Solar research pays off

Chris Meyers
General Manager
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

Interest in green energy sources is on the rise and understandably so. Renewable energy technology continues to become less costly and, consequently, more readily available. Consumer-members and their electric cooperatives share a common desire to be good stewards of the environment while benefitting from energy that is safe, reliable and affordable. 

In an energy landscape that emphasizes renewables’ growth, consumers come across frequent marketing messages from solar companies; most often, they promise substantial savings on electric bills following the installation of rooftop solar panels. As trusted energy advisers that genuinely care for their consumer-members, your rural electric cooperative welcomes the opportunity to help you decide if solar is the right fit for you and your family. 

While electric co-ops are leaders in renewables integration, including solar-—particularly on the utility scale level—co-ops urge members to consult with them before signing up for solar investments that could be misleading. As with other key decisions such as buying a house, a car or even deciding on a university to attend, it always pays off to conduct thorough research.  

Some consumer-members in the state have already discovered through experience that there are several factors to be taken into consideration before deciding if rooftop solar panels make economic sense and will yield all the benefits as advertised. A few considerations to pay attention to are: the credibility of the solar company; the electric rates used in their proposal along with the estimated payment for excess energy; whether the proposal accounts for fixed costs from the electric utility provider that every consumer pays; and any other expenses in the form of hidden costs, maintenance fees, upfront payments, insurance costs, etc. In other words, what is the true return on investment? Other factors would include the overall energy efficiency of the home, orientation of the sun in relation to the home, tree coverage or other items that can obstruct sunlight, storm damage coverage and more. 

Every consumer will have unique circumstances to consider before making a final determination if rooftop solar panels make sense for them. Your local electric cooperative is a trusted energy partner that is invested in their members’ quality of life and the benefits they derive from reliable and affordable energy. Your co-op has the expertise to answer questions and provide guidance on the best decision for you. Co-op employees are members just like you; their work is based on the premise of neighbors helping neighbors. Contact your local electric cooperative for any questions you may have regarding your energy needs. OKL Article End


What happens when lights blink or the power goes off?

Gary Roulet
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

If the outage was local or distribution voltage oriented, restoration is handled by your local cooperative distribution retail provider. If it has to do with substations, switch stations or transmission lines above 69,000 kilovolts, it is the responsibility of the Generation and Transmission Cooperative (G&T) to restore service.

Outage identification may come from public calls, notifications from other transmission providers, or most likely from the G&T or distribution cooperative Energy Management System (EMS). An EMS system receives real-time information from thousands of pieces of equipment, located on transmission lines, in substations (where electricity is converted from high to lower voltages) or at switch stations (where high voltage transmission lines interconnect), every few seconds. An EMS is usually located in a control center staffed with “system operators” who monitor the electric grid, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Many problems can be corrected from the control center without sending people into the field.

Switches, breakers and other equipment can be opened or closed from that office, re-routing power flow and restoring power. Crews can then be dispatched to correct problems after power has been restored. Utilities generally have more than one control center. Only one is generally operational at a time and others exist as backup should problems occur. Backup facilities are usually remote from the primary control center so storms or other events won’t impact both facilities.

When unusual activity, resulting in an outage, is identified, crews are dispatched to correct the problem.  Every day or night, crews are on-call and ready to be dispatched. After-hours, on-call crews usually take fully equipped vehicles home so they can respond quicker without having to come to their work place. To avoid long outages, distribution cooperative crews are trained to correct more routine transmission-related problems as they are usually closer and can respond quicker than G&T crews. Since a G&T service covers a very large area, G&T crews usually have some distance to travel to outages. To help avoid long outages, WFEC established outposts (small crews) located across Oklahoma. Response from these more remote locations is quicker and these crews can begin evaluating and fixing problems, or mobilizing additional crews and equipment if necessary.

Large outages are usually the result of large storms, ice storms or other larger area weather events. Sometimes in large outages, contract crews are called in to assist regular cooperative employees in restoration, and help restore power quicker.

In any case, whether the outage is distribution or transmission in nature, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, someone is watching for electrical problems and help is usually not too far away. OKL Article End