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Power Connection - Rappahannock Electric Cooperative

REC Celebrates 75 Years

The Power to Bring Communities Together

Although most of the early pioneers of the two cooperatives

originally formed to electrify the Rappahannock Electric

Cooperative (REC) service territory are gone today, the light they

helped bring to their rural areas still shines through the spirit of

their efforts. As a cooperative owned by the people it serves, REC

has grown from two independent electric cooperatives to become

the largest cooperative in Virginia.

“In the mid 1930s, farmers in Caroline, Madison and

Culpeper counties had the desire to bring electricity to their

farms that functioned with hand-pumped water, candlelight and

woodburning stoves,” explained Kent D. Farmer, REC’s president

and CEO. “With investor-owned utilities powering the densely

populated areas, making farm operations more successful and

allowing new businesses to develop, rural Virginians wanted the

same conveniences and opportunities.”

Farmer’s Rural Utilities was first formed and then later

became known as Virginia Electric Cooperative. It first

served rural Caroline County and expanded into

surrounding counties. Shortly after, Northern

C0-op system improvements

Piedmont Electric Cooperative formed to serve Madison and

Culpeper, and later expanded to surrounding communities.

After more than four decades of successfully electrifying parts of

Central Virginia, the two cooperatives consolidated to form REC.

“With such strong foundational roots, REC has formed into

an industry leader among electric cooperatives nationwide,”

added Farmer. “From solutions for keeping costs down to helping

with energy efficiency, today REC is finding new ways to save

energy and money by working together inside the Cooperative

and outside with the people we serve.”

REC and its members have seen many changes since the first

house was electrified in 1936, and there will undoubtedly be more

as it moves into the future. Farmer said, “Despite what lies ahead,

REC remains confident in its ability to surmount any challenges

with the same resolve as in years past, keeping members at the

forefront of the Cooperative. REC has and will always keep the

interest of the membership as a top priority. We are proud

to celebrate 75 years and look forward to many more

milestones to come.”

1970s 2012

Power Connection is your

free source of information

about energy conservation

and management, energy

services, technology trends,

government and regional

economic development.

For additional information

about this publication, to

suggest a topic for a future

issue, or to update your name

and address, contact REC

at 800-920-WATT (9288) or

powerconnection@myrec.coop

Emergency Preparedness:

Spring is a time of renewal, but it can also bring extreme weather changes

and sudden storms. Thunderstorms, tornadoes and floods can be

devastating in terms of facility damage and lost revenues. While employee

safety is the first order of business, care should be taken to reduce the

impact of a storm on business operations. Is your facility ready? Storm

preparedness should include emergency action procedures to ensure the

safety of your staff and facility, as well as adequate backup power to

keep your critical equipment functioning in case of an outage.

Storm safety procedures

The following steps should help to keep your staff and facility safe

from harm in the event of a spring storm.

• Create an emergency action plan that includes evacuation procedures,

contact information for local first responders and emergency contact

information for all employees.

• Keep supplies in an emergency preparedness kit. Suggested items include

water bottles, non-perishable food, blankets, first-aid supplies, flashlights

and a battery-powered radio.

• Contact your state emergency management office for information about

local shelters, evacuation plans, emergency exit routes and so on.

• Make sure the grounds around your facility are free of heavy debris that

could be tossed around in the wind, and trim trees to prevent limbs from

falling on buildings.

• Choose a safe area in your facility where occupants can gather if a storm

or tornado warning is issued. This area should be located in a basement

if available, or a ground-level room with no windows.

Keeping outdoor workers safe

Outdoor workers are exposed to a variety of weather conditions, but

lightning poses a particular threat. Businesses with fleet vehicles or outdoor

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Preparing for Spring Storms

work crews should have a plan in place

to keep workers safe in case of a lightning storm.

The following are some general safety tips:

• Monitor weather conditions for reports of severe weather conditions

in your area.

• Make sure workers understand the safety procedures that are to be followed

in case of severe weather, including what shelter is available to them.

• Safe shelter areas include substantial buildings, enclosed metal vehicles or low

ground. Inform employees to avoid metal objects, open areas or water.

Make sure workers wait until at least 30 minutes after the last lightning strike

before returning to work.

After the storm

While your electric power is very reliable, outages do happen. Facility damage

can also result in long-term downtime. By planning ahead, you can get back

to business quickly and reduce financial loss.

REC Identifies

High Reliability Zones (HRZs)

Targeted to Improve Reliability

Providing reliable electric service is one of REC’s top priorities.

In order to achieve this goal, the Cooperative’s knowledgeable

employees analyze distribution circuit performance to identify areas

for service improvements to increase reliability.

John Crawford, REC’s manager of the Blue Ridge district

and operations and construction services, said, “We have identified

high reliability zones, as the section of a circuit from the substation

to the first down-line protective device. It is critical that these zones

be evaluated for construction integrity, functional coordination

schemes, adequate lightning and device protection, and other

operational considerations.”

Each of REC’s districts will analyze circuit performance using

industry-standard metrics and prioritize the construction of high

reliability zones based on this analysis. The plan developed will be

implemented over the next five years and then be re-evaluated to

ensure the desired results are being achieved.

“Reducing the frequency of outages in these zones would have

a significant positive impact on REC’s reliability,” Crawford added.

“Employees will review the physical condition of the facilities in each

zone and develop plans to improve reliability for our members.”

Upgrades such as wildlife and lightning protection, pole and

cross-arm replacements, and line-protection upgrades will be

implemented. Existing and potential vegetation issues will also be

identified and mitigated as much as possible prior to implementing

the construction of the HRZ. Advanced technology, such as infrared

cameras, will be utilized to identify connection points within the

zone that may be getting ready to fail.

Crawford concluded, “These projects will greatly improve

the reliability of service to our members. We can’t prevent all

power outages, especially those that occur because of high winds,

snow, ice and other storms. But these projects will help reduce

outage frequency and the length of time of some outages due to

equipment failures.”

spring 2013


Recovering After the Storm

Winter Storms Saturn and Virgil

In early March, winter storm “Saturn” brought wet, heavy snow

and gusty winds to virtually all areas of Rappahannock Electric

Cooperative’s territory. At the height of the storm, more than 70,000

REC members were without electricity. Storm Virgil hit the same

areas in late March leaving over 11,000 members without electricity.

The Effects on REC

The National Weather Service predicted days in advance that a strong

winter storm would pass through Virginia, bringing heavy snow to

northwestern Virginia. The predictions for snow and winds gusting in

excess of 50 miles per hour were correct, but the storm tracked further

south than expected. At times, snow fell at rates of two to three inches

an hour. All of the 22 counties served by REC received heavy, wet snow

of varying depths. The National Weather Service reported accumulations

of up to 19 inches along the Skyline Drive, 16 inches in Louisa, 8

inches south into Hanover, and two to three inches as far east as King

and Queen. Governor Bob McDonnell declared a State of Emergency

as the heavy snow and high wind brought trees down onto power lines

and across roads. According to Virginia Department of Emergency

Management, there were approximately 370,000 outages among electric

Outages – Saturn

utilities across the Commonwealth

at the peak of the storm.

With the effects of storm “Saturn”

fresh in everyone’s memories,

your Cooperative braced itself for

what was being forecast as another

powerful storm for the same areas.

Winter storm “Virgil” arrived midafternoon

on March 24 bringing

sleet and snow to many of the same areas affected by the month’s

earlier storm. Leaving anywhere from two to eight inches of snow in

areas it weighed heavy on power lines causing damage to equipment.

REC Preparation and Response to the Storm

Based on weather forecasts for storm “Saturn”, REC knew there was the

potential for extensive damage and prepared in advance by requesting

assistance from cooperatives in states outside the storms’ projected

paths. Before the storm started, REC crews and contractors, along with

crews from other cooperatives were pre-staged and ready to respond.

“Having additional crews in place prior to storm “Saturn” allowed

us to restore service to nearly 50 percent of our members within 24

hours,” said Tim Martin, vice president of engineering and operations.

“Mutual aid agreements among cooperatives are invaluable in times

like this. Having quick access to additional resources truly speeds the

restoration process.”

REC and out-of-state crews responded to outages

from storm “Saturn” starting early Wednesday

Outages – Virgil

morning. Lines were coming down faster than crews

could repair them. When the extent of damage became

evident Wednesday afternoon, additional assistance

was requested. Soon, linemen and equipment from

eight states were working alongside REC personnel,

more than doubling REC’s field workforce and

creating one of the largest restoration teams assembled

in the history of the Cooperative.

Crews worked around the clock to restore power

as quickly and safely as possible. Despite difficult road

conditions, fast-falling snow, and

dangerous conditions, REC was able

to respond quickly. Within 48 hours

of storm “Saturn’s” peak, 75 percent

of the outages had been restored.

By March 11, power was restored to

all REC members.

Closing following forecasts for

storm “Virgil” at the end of the

month, REC made similar preparations for potential outages. Since the

storm didn’t include the high winds the effects of REC’s system weren’t

as severe as the storm earlier in the month. With assistance from in and

out of state Cooperatives, REC was able to restore power to all of the

members affected by storm “Virgil” within two days.

“We understand that our members inconvenienced by these storms

have recently experienced outages from hurricane Sandy and the

Derecho. The stubborn weather pattern repeated itself once again in

the central part of our service area.” Maxie Rozell, director of Safety

explained that the late seasonal storms produced heavy wet snow,

impacting trees and lines. It melted quickly, but the damage was

extensive and the time to make repairs was lengthy.

Restoration

Restoring service after such devastating storms follows a specific

and proven hierarchy. First we address downed wires that create an

immediate threat to life or property, or that block roads as reported

by local 911 dispatchers. Next is ensuring that power is flowing

to the substations. This may, as it did during these storms, require

coordinating with other utilities to repair high voltage lines traversing

between substations. The third step is to repair the circuits out of the

substations. Once the main circuits are repaired and energized, the

remaining restoration takes a triage approach: evaluate the damage

and do the most good as quickly as possible by repairing lines serving

critical public facilities and larger numbers of members.

“We know it is frustrating to see crews working in your area and

potentially restoring power to some of your neighbors, and then leave

while you remain off,” said REC’s CEO and President, Kent Farmer.

“We constantly re-evaluate our restoration process, but to focus on

smaller or individual outages before fixing larger lines would be very

inefficient,” explained Farmer. “Each member is equally important,

but we have to focus on the repairs that provide the greatest good.”

Preventative Measures

REC maintains more than 16,000 miles of power lines to serve

157,000 meters across 22 counties. About 60 percent of those lines

are overhead. REC’s policy is to install lines in the most cost-effective

manner. Overhead lines are usually less costly, and have the benefit

of being able to carry higher volumes of electricity, being easier

to upgrade as communities grow and the demand for electricity

increases, and easier and quicker identification and repair of problems

along the lines.

People often think placing lines underground will make

the electric system more reliable, and that the added costs of

underground construction will be offset by reducing right-of-way

maintenance expenses and the costs of repairing lines after storms.

Several well documented technical studies by regulators across the

country, including the Virginia State Corporation Commission,

conclude that placing all lines underground would be cost

prohibitive, take decades to complete and would result in increased

rates for all electricity customers.

For REC, providing reliable service is second only to ensuring

the safety of the public and our employees. One of the Cooperative’s

strategic goals is to reduce the frequency and duration of outages.

Options for achieving that goal may involve placing some lines

underground, “hardening” major circuits, widening rights-of-way, and

performing more frequent tree trimming and line patrols. Evaluating

and implementing new technologies will also play an important role.

While a totally “storm proof” distribution system may not be

economically nor technically feasible, minimizing the impact of severe

weather events is becoming ever more important, as demonstrated

by the four major storms we have experienced within past eighteen

months. Be assured that your Cooperative is taking both immediate

and long-term actions to provide reliable electric service.

When Occupancy Sensors Make Sense

Lighting accounts for 40 percent of the electricity used in

commercial buildings. Despite the attention paid to efficiency

upgrades, great opportunities exist for reducing energy use by

simply turning lights off where and when they are not needed.

While energy savings can be achieved through education and

incentives, it is often difficult to get staff or building occupants to

cooperate. An automated lighting control system using occupancy

sensors is more effective in many cases.

Selection and Placement

Proper selection and placement of occupancy sensors can result

in a system that building occupants view as an improvement;

automatically turning off lights after occupants leave a room and

automatically turning them on as occupants enter. However,

inappropriate application of this technology can limit the

amount of energy savings and lead to poor, or even unsafe,

lighting conditions.

Commonly used sensor types include infrared and ultrasonic.

Infrared sensors detect motion from a heat source (such as a

person), while ultrasonic models detect motion from objects using

a form of radar. Each has strengths and weaknesses that should

be considered when making a selection. Infrared sensors need to

see the occupant, so they may not perform well in restroom stalls

or office cubicles. Also, minimal motions (such as typing on a

keyboard) may not always be detected. Ultrasonic sensors are good

at sensing small movements and do not need to see the occupant

directly. However, since ultrasonic waves bounce off room

surfaces, any movement will alter their return patterns.

Occupancy sensors may not be a good fit for every part of

your facility. Start by identifying spaces that are unoccupied on

a regular basis. Spaces to consider include executive offices, copy

rooms, restrooms, and conference rooms. Selection of appropriate

spaces requires an accurate understanding of how the spaces will be

used. For existing buildings, it may be worthwhile to measure and

document space occupancy. This can be done with sophisticated

data recorders or by simply having someone walk around at regular

intervals to see which spaces are occupied. Occupancy sensors

should not be used with high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps,

unless they are used with stepped-dimming systems specifically

designed for use with occupancy sensors.

Installation and Coverage

Occupancy sensors are available as wall-mounted and ceilingmounted

units. To avoid false detection with ceiling-mounted

sensors, it is important to specify a viewing range that matches

the application. For example, a hallway sensor should look in two

directions but not into an office, while a conference room sensor

should pick up motion from anywhere in the room. Some of

the most common failures of occupancy control systems can be

attributed to inadequate sensor coverage or not tuning a sensor’s

sensitivity appropriately for the application.

Coverage area of sensors depends on the room arrangement,

room geometry, the presence of partitions, type of sensor, location

of sensor, the sensor’s sensitivity setting, and type of motion.

Ultrasonic sensors can cover a wider range than infrared sensors,

but are more prone to false triggering from air motion. Ceilingmounted

models may cover 250 to 2,000 square feet, while wallmounted

sensors may cover 300 to 7,500 square feet. Larger areas

can be covered by integrating multiple sensors. Each sensor has

controls to adjust the time interval before lights are turned off—

typically ranging from one to 15 minutes.

Saving Energy with Sensors

Occupancy sensors can result in a wide range of savings,

depending on the occupancy pattern of the room and the habits

of the occupants. Alcoa Composites in Monrovia, California

enjoys $26,000 in annual electricity savings as a result of installing

ultrasonic sensors in offices, work areas, and hallways. The

installation paid for itself within one year.

Frequent on-and-off switching may shorten lamp and ballast

life. Generally however, the energy-cost savings from turning

lamps off more than makes up for any increased maintenance and

replacement costs.

This article previously appeared in the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative,

Questline e-newsletter and is used with permission.

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