Powering You Through: The Summer and The Winter
March 29, 2021
Electricity provides year-round comfort for us, no matter the temperature outside. But this wouldn’t be possible without a team of dedicated, trained individuals who ensure the electrical distribution network works as it should. Since 1937, our line workers have been powering our member-consumers through the summer and the winter.
Stearns Electric Association serves over 27,000 member-consumers including residential, agricultural, and large and small commercial accounts. Our mission is to safely deliver reliable electricity, provide beneficial energy solutions and a positive member experience to all types of member accounts.
Providing consistent and reliable electricity would be impossible without the talented group of field workers employed at Stearns Electric. Our linemen and substation technicians work 24/7/365 to ensure the Cooperative’s distribution system functions properly and power outages are restored in a timely fashion for our member-consumers.
POWERING YOU THROUGH THE SUMMER
In Minnesota, we all look forward to the long, warm days of summer. The same is true for our crews, who complete many annual projects during the nicest, and hottest, days of the year.
“Summertime is especially busy for the Co-op. In addition to our normal monthly substation inspections that happen year-round, we also need to complete many projects outlined in the Co-op’s Construction Work Plan, which maintain our distribution system,” Glen Kemper, Substation and Operations Technology Supervisor, said.
“One of our large summer projects is also plowing in underground power lines for new services and re-building existing lines,” Jason Selix, Line Worker and St. Joseph Maintenance Crew Chief, explained.
“Most underground projects are completed in the summer because frost makes digging difficult,” Jacob Jordan, Line Worker, added.
Although much work happens in the summer months, working outside in the summer is not without its challenges.
“I love working outdoors because I don’t like being cooped up all day,” Selix explained. “But I can’t stand the heat! We can dress for cold weather, but with our specialized fire-resistant clothing, we cannot always dress comfortably for summer.”
“Summertime also means we have to deal with mosquitos and poison ivy,” Jordan explained.
Additionally, outages typically increase during the summer due to a number of reasons like storms, animals and construction. At least two linemen are on-call every week throughout the year, but that increases in the summertime.
“From Memorial Day through Labor Day, four linemen are on call every weekend – one crew from Melrose and one crew from St. Joseph,” Selix said. “We are on call from 4 p.m. Friday through 7 a.m. the following Friday and respond to any weekend or after-hours outages.”
“Responding to after-hours outages used to be a big part of my job, especially during the summer,” Kemper said. “But with new technology developments over the last several years, the linemen are able to handle most of the after-hour outages now. However, I am still involved when there are transmission outages or an outage at a substation.”
POWERING YOU THROUGH THE WINTER
For field crews, there’s not a whole lot of difference between summer and winter work.
“No matter the season, we start the day with a job briefing at the shop,” Jordan explained. “We discuss what equipment and materials we need and load up our trucks and vehicles accordingly, then head to the site.”
“We conduct our normal substation inspections in the winter, just the same as summer. They just happen a bit slower in colder weather,” Kemper said.
Winter is also a time for crews to complete special projects, such as OCR change-outs, overhead line inspections and other general maintenance.
“Typically from January to March, we perform an annual Oil Circuit Recloser (OCR) maintenance project where we change out about 120 OCRs that are installed on our distribution system,” Kemper said.
“In the winter on a construction crew, we do infrared scanning on our underground modules and transformers,” Jordan explained. “Any loose or bad connections show up more obviously on the infrared cameras because there is more of a temperature difference in the winter time.”
“Plus, in the winter, we can usually drive our large bucket trucks anywhere as the ground is hard and frozen,” Selix added. “This makes it easier to inspect our distribution system equipment in those hard to reach areas that we can’t always get to in the summer.”
Like the summer, working outdoors in the winter also has its benefits and challenges.
“In addition to being able to get a truck almost anywhere, there are no mosquitos,” Jordan said.
“Working outdoors in the winter is not as enjoyable as the summer, but it’s fun to watch the seasons change,” Kemper explained. “During winter, we can handle the snow, but the extreme cold makes it difficult to do pretty much anything efficiently.”
No matter what the weather is like, extremely hot, extremely cold or anywhere in between, rest assured our crews are out in the field working hard to make sure our distribution system works properly to safely deliver reliable electricity to you, our members, in every season.