Manager’s Message: Spring is Finally Here and Your Cooperative is Busy
An old adage says there are two seasons in Minnesota – winter and road construction. This saying also applies to utility construction since it is difficult to bury underground cable and set utility poles in a state with a deep frost line. As we finally head into construction season after our extended winter, I want to provide you, our member-owners, with an update on some of the Cooperative’s recent activities and plans for the construction season.
HIGH RESAP SCORES
A commitment to safety is one of our Cooperative core values. Early in 2018 we went through the Rural Electric Safety Achievement Program (RESAP) which is a national program that audits safety practices and procedures. RESAP strives to promote the highest standards of safety among electric cooperatives and we were pleased that our safety program and culture scored very high.
Last year work began on building a new substation along County Road 133 near five points in St. Wendel Township. A substation transforms extremely high transmission voltages into voltages that can travel along distribution lines in the community. The electricity that comes from a transmission system is many times higher than a home can handle, so a substation steps down the power to a level that is safe to send to the transformer at your home.
This new substation will help us meet the energy requirements of the growing Sartell area and improve reliability. We have been planning for the construction of this substation for several years and are proud to share that this substation was energized on April 17th.
CONSTRUCTION SEASON BEGINS
Improving the reliability of our distribution system continues to be a priority. In 2018, Stearns Electric has a construction budget of $7.5 million. This construction season we plan to replace over 20 miles of three phase line. This is a continuation of our plan to replace aged underground cable that has historically been prone to failure and needs to be replaced to reduce outages.
The equipment on our system is your link to safe, reliable electricity. To keep you connected, we regularly test poles for strength and durability, replace aging line and convert overhead conductors to underground, where feasible. As part of our maintenance program, we are on track to test 7,500 of our 60,000 electric poles and replace 485 poles due to decay and rot. We will also continue replacing high pressure sodium (HPS) security lights with LED lights. We will make these replacements as maintenance issues arise until the price and quality of LEDs warrant a complete retrofit.
In 2018 we anticipate 325 new services, including new homes, farm irrigation and commercial facilities, as well as numerous upgrades to existing services to accommodate larger loads.
VEGETATION MANAGEMENT PICKS UP
Just as our line crews head into their busiest season, our vegetation management team, alongside a number of crews from Carr’s Tree Service, are doing the same. As I’ve shared many times, Stearns Electric has invested $2.1 million into an aggressive right-of-way (ROW) program to reduce potential power outages and energy hazards. This investment is reaping dividends already as our 2017 tree related outages declined 33% from the prior year. Clearing ROW is critical to keeping our members’ lights on.
You may find Stearns Electric and Carr’s Tree Service in your neighborhood this summer identifying and addressing hazard trees. Erica, our ACRT contracted Forester, is out in the community driving our lines and speaking with members directly regarding corrective action from simple trimming to tree removal. While the Cooperative maintains a legal right to clear ROW, our goal is to make sure you as members aren’t surprised by activity on your property and understand why we are cutting or removing trees. If our 2018 ROW work plan affects you, you will receive a letter from the Cooperative and likely here from Erica directly. Once we’ve communicated with you, crews from the Cooperative or Carr’s Tree Service follow behind to do the work which is then audited for quality and reported back to the Cooperative.
STORM SEASON APPROACHES
While the Cooperative is investing in reliability and system improvements, some power outages are inevitable, especially as storm season approaches. If you experience a power outage this summer, or anytime, be sure to report your outage by calling the Cooperative directly or utilizing the SmartHub app on your smartphone or tablet. While our outage management systems utilize advanced technology, contacting the Cooperative is still the most effective and efficient way to report an outage. The Stearns Electric crews, of course will respond as quickly and safely as possible to restore your power.
MOVE OVER FOR CREWS
Finally, I just wanted to remind everyone to exercise caution driving around road construction crews and utility line crews this summer. Reduced speeds and moving over to the far lane not only improves safety, in Minnesota it’s the law.
I hope you and your family are able to have some quality time together this summer.
November 30, 2020
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