How I Got Into Energy – Mark Todd

“My Daddy’s been my hero my entire life. My Dad was a lineman.”

Mark Todd grew up with energy in his blood – literally. The son and grandson of lineworkers, Todd knew at a young age that he’d follow the same path.

Among his fond childhood memories are playing ‘lineworker’ with his best friend Van James. The pair had fathers who worked for the same company, and both young boys looked forward to the weekends when the work trucks would travel home to be parked in their yards. James and Todd would find hard hats and rubber gloves and get to work on their imaginary poles, just like they knew their linemen fathers were doing at work. “In our minds we were king of the street, and we were linemen,” Todd fondly remembers.

The thrill of the work wasn’t the only thing Todd noticed about the job. He could sense how highly others regarded his dad’s work, like when family and friends called to check on his safety and wellbeing during storms. “I remember how folks looked at my Dad and they respected him because of what he did,” Todd explains.

The realities of danger associated with being a lineworker were never far from Todd’s mind. And one important lesson, shortly after Todd committed to the job, sticks out. Father and son sat down at the kitchen table.

“He gave me a No. 2 pencil,” says Todd. “And he took that pencil, and he broke the eraser off of it. And he said, ‘Son, a lineman doesn’t need an eraser on his pencil, because he can’t afford to make mistakes.’ Just saying those words today still I get a lump in my throat, because I know now what it was that he was saying. For someone to go in to want to be a lineman, it has to be a calling.”

Todd answered that call diligently. For many years, he worked in the field as a lineworker. In 2012, he took a new path, joining ElectriCities as a Senior Safety & Training Specialist. “Working with ElectriCities in the Safety & Training department, I see firsthand what it means when we talk about communities serving each other,” says Todd. The job has led Todd to friendships in public power communities across the state and outside it and given him a meaningful sense of purpose.

“It truly is a wonderful life and I am blessed far more than I deserve,” Todd reflects. “I hope when this amazing and rewarding career … comes to an end, that I will be remembered as someone who made a difference — someone who cared for the linemen he worked with every day and their families.”


How I Got Into Energy… brought to you by public power.

We want to hear how you got into an energy career. If you’d like to share your story, email Lindsay Hollandsworth or reach out to us on social media, and you might just be featured in an upcoming article.

 

 

 

 

“Keeping the Lights On” License Plate Becomes Reality

Great news! The “Keeping the Lights On” License Plate will become a reality now that House Bill 449 has been passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor. This special plate celebrates the work of all lineworkers and utility employees across the state who work tirelessly to keep our lights on, especially after natural disasters. The proceeds from the plate go to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center.

On September 17, the governor and legislative leaders joined NC Jaycee Burn Center representatives and lineworkers from across the state to highlight the important work line crews and utility workers perform. Crews from Duke Energy, the Cooperatives, and Public Power were present to represent North Carolina lineworkers.

We have had a great response to the introduction of this specialty plate, and wanted to let everyone know the following:

  • The design is still being finalized but will look very similar to the depiction above
  • In addition to the normal registration costs, the license plate will cost $30 — $20 of that will benefit the burn center
  • Find out more about North Carolina specialty license plates — yes, you can personalize a specialty plate here (note that as of the date of this post, the DMV site does not yet mention the lineworkers plate since it is not yet available)
  • If your vehicle is registered in North Carolina, watch this space for information on when the plate will be available for public sale — it will be at least November, and maybe a few months longer, before it is ready
  • If you’re not in North Carolina and think this is a great idea (you’re right!), contact your state’s Division of Motor Vehicles for information specific to your state

Further questions? Please contact Government Affairs Liaison Drew Elliot at 919-760-6322 or delliot@electricities.org.

‘Thank You’ to Our Public Power Crews

With Hurricane Dorian’s arrival, North Carolina public power communities experienced outages across the eastern part of the state, peaking at approximately 32,000 customers without power. Once it was safe to do so, our crews – our hometown heroes – responded, working tirelessly to restore power to our customers. And we’re pleased to report that all were restored by Saturday afternoon, with most restored in under 12 hours. That said, and for all that you’ve done and continue to do every day, a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ goes out to our public power crews who responded to Hurricane Dorian. We’d like to recognize all those public power communities who sent lineworker crews to assist those in need. Thank you for keeping the lights on.

Mutual Aid Responders:

High Point, NC – Responding to New Bern, NC
Gastonia, NC – Responding to New Bern, NC
Statesville, NC – Responding to New Bern, NC
Danville, VA – Responding to New Bern, NC
Shelby/Newton, NC – Responding to New Bern, NC
Opelika, AL (Opelika Power Services) – Responding to Washington, NC
Lafayette, LA (LUS) – Responding to Kinston, NC
Rocky Mount, NC – Responding to Elizabeth City, NC
Wilson, NC – Responding to Elizabeth City, NC
Tarboro, NC – Responding to Elizabeth City, NC
Wake Forest, NC – Responding to Elizabeth City, NC

For more examples of Mutual Aid in action, visit our Social Hub.

Latest Hurricane Dorian update

As Hurricane Dorian moves out of North Carolina, crews are responding to outages in public power communities across the state. To keep up to date and stay safe, please use the resources below.


Member Utility Resources

View the Outage Map   Emergency Assistance Resources


Customer Resources

For the latest storm updates, visit our Social Hub.

For more information on Mutual Aid, visit APPA online.


Safety Resources

NC Emergency Management reminds residents to secure property in advance of the storm and to avoid flooded and washed-out roads following the storm. DriveNC.gov is a valuable resource for checking driving conditions.

In addition, the ReadyNC mobile app should be downloaded for up-to-date information on preparedness, evacuations, shelters and more.

T&D World: Simulator Takes Risk Out of Transformer Training

ElectriCities of North Carolina uses a new portable, three-phase trainer to instruct linemen in a safe, controlled environment.

When apprentice linemen step out into the line trade, utilities may ask them to build a transformer bank. If this job is performed incorrectly and they perform one wrong connection, they could inflict thousands of dollars of damage and put their livelihood, and even their lives, at risk.

To train linemen how to do this work method the right way, ElectriCities of North Carolina invited municipal linemen from across the state of North Carolina to a one-week Transformer Training School in Maiden, North Carolina, last summer.

Rather than making the linemen sit in the classroom all day and learn from textbooks, the school introduced the students to a new way of learning. Because linemen often prefer to perform physical, hands-on work, the school not only taught the students through classroom instruction, but also gave them the opportunity to practice on a simulator and work on transformers in a training yard.

Linemen from North Carolina municipals practice three-phase transformer banking using the new Load-Trainer II Transformer Simulators.

Training Municipal Linemen

Once or twice a year, ElectriCities offers a Transformer Training School for students—alternating one in the eastern part of the state and one in the West to make it convenient for cities across North Carolina to send their employees. Since each class is limited to 25 students, a second school is sometimes added, but typically, only one course is offered per year.

These training programs are designed not only for the apprentices new to the line trade, but also for experienced journeymen linemen who need refresher training. On the first day of the training program, the students took a verbal pre-test assessment and attended a job briefing before learning about transformer theory and touring the outside facilities.

The next day, the linemen received instruction on IFD and single-phase transformer installation replacement and removal. During the week, they also learned how to size a transformer and troubleshoot an overhead transformer bank following a simulated outage.

To give its students real-world experience with transformers, ElectriCities of North Carolina introduced the new Load Trainer II Transformer Simulator from Utility Solutions at its summer session. The portable three-phase trainer takes classroom learning a step beyond basic textbooks and slide presentations by combining a physical wiring environment with a computer controlled simulation.

Operating the Simulator

The Transformer Simulator, which measures 27.5-in. wide by 19 in. tall by 3.5 in. deep, weighs 16 pounds. It also includes color-coded patch cords and a 7-in. interactive touch screen. To operate the simulator, users apply jumpers between source lines, transformers and a secondary system. When they press the “test” button, the simulator will display phase-to-phase voltages, phase-to-neutral voltages, phase angles and load.

To read the full article, click here.

A Few Days in the Life – Phil Bisesi, Supervisor, Residential Energy Services

Every day starts around 5 a.m. with my golden retriever Anni and her black lab mix brother (of a different mother) Owen.  One of them will rise from their dog beds and walk to my side of the bed and just stand there, breathing loud enough for me to eventually hear.  When they know I am awake, I next sense the gentle wap, wap, wap of their tail happily wagging against the side of the mattress.  I rise slowly and make my way in the dark to my closet to dress, praying I don’t step on one of about 20 dog bones scattered throughout the house.  They both follow me, anticipating one of their daily walks and knowing that breakfast can’t be far behind.  Before them, I’d never had a dog, and now I can’t imagine life without them.

2/13/19 Rocky Mount, N.C. Operations Center.

Today, I taught our Customer Service 101 class to 25 customer service representatives (CSRs) and dispatch staff from our eastern North Carolina members.  We started our Customer Service classes in 2015 and since then, 465 members have attended one of three classes. CSRs are the face of public power, often interacting with more customers than any other public power position.  Sometimes customers can be emotional and upset about a high bill or a cut off notice, and CSRs often bear the brunt of these venting experiences.  The classes are designed to help them better understand the product they sell, electricity, how customers use electricity, and how to handle challenging customer interactions.

2/15/19.  Today, I distributed an email to city managers and utility directors announcing the availability of State of North Carolina grant funds that can be used to purchase electric vehicle charging stations and electric vehicles.  Electric vehicles are a promising frontier for electric utilities.  Public power communities have an opportunity to promote them by installing the infrastructure that will enable electric vehicle owners to charge their vehicles away from home.

2/19/19.  Concord, N.C.

Today, I visited the Cannon School in Concord, N.C. to teach our E-Tracker program to Ms. Mattson’s Advanced Placement Environmental Science class.  E-Tracker is designed to help high school students understand the relationship between the weather and their daily electricity use at home.  To make this happen, we get them to apply the scientific method where they hypothesize what will happen, collect data by reading their home electric meters and recording high and low temperatures every day for a month, analyze the data using spreadsheet analytics including linear regression, and draw conclusions.  The students also measure the electric use of at least five home appliances with a “Kill-A-Watt” meter, which we loan to them.  E-Tracker actively engages students and they feel a sense of ownership in the data, and it is affirming to see them grasp the concepts we are trying to teach.

Each workday ends much like it begins — with my welcome committee of Anni and Owen who greet me with wags and licks and barks once I’m inside the front door.  Now, like in the morning, they know my arrival marks another walk followed by dinner.  Once we return from our walk, it’s feeding time again, followed by medicine for Owen, who has been on antibiotics for a bacterial infection for several months.  Then I prepare dinner for the family, and we sit, eat, and talk about the highs and lows of our respective days.

After clearing the dishes and kitchen cleanup, there will be time for the latest binge watch on Netflix before sleep takes me over, assuredly before the end of whatever episode my wife Joy and I are watching.  I’m awakened with a gentle nudge from Joy, as it is time to take the dogs out one last time. It’s something they probably don’t need to do, but a routine we started with them as puppies and one we continued to do because they/I don’t know life any other way.  When we return, they head to their dog beds and it’s time to brush our teeth and get ready for bed.  On the way back to the bed, I pet the dogs one last time and then head under the covers for the privilege to do it all over again.

Top Utilities: Power Players For Development

Size counts, but when it comes to making our picks for forward-thinking utilities, so do smart grids, renewable energy and a seat at the table when economic development deals are negotiated.

You can always find the largest utilities in the country—the biggest regional and multi-state power players—on any top utilities list based on installed power capacity. But if you use size as your primary criteria, be prepared to make some last-minute edits to the list: as we were going to press last year with our Editor’s Picks for the utilities sector, Virginia-based Dominion Energy swallowed SCANA in neighboring South Carolina in a $7.9-billion acquisition; earlier this year, Gulf Power was acquired by NextEra Energy.

When BF makes its utilities choices, we’re not just measuring megawatts—we’re looking for the power players who are fast on their feet in embracing new technologies and proactively fine-tuning their sources of energy for a rapidly adjusting market. We’re looking for old-school reliability combined with cutting-edge efficiency. And we’re zeroing in on the players who always seem to have a seat at the table when the deals are cut for the most important economic development projects in their region.

Today’s leading utilities are playing an integral role in the future prosperity of the communities they serve. They’re busy tailoring energy solutions to match the evolving requirements of the 21st century businesses that locations covet as engines of sustainable growth. They’re also playing a leading role in expanding the reach of renewables by delivering green energy at rates that make it competitive in all markets.

And so, without further ado, here are our Editor’s Picks:

ELECTRICITIES OF NC: PUBLIC POWER
In more than 70 cities and towns across North Carolina, homes and businesses are powered by municipally owned utilities. These public power communities have a well-earned reputation for providing safe, reliable electric service and outstanding customer service to more than 1.2 million people in North Carolina—more than the populations of Raleigh and Charlotte combined. In fact, a statewide survey of 3,000 customers in North Carolina conducted in 2018 found that 82.3 percent of residents are satisfied with public power.

“Time and time again, public power communities throughout North Carolina have demonstrated the value that comes with owning and operating their own electric system,” said Roy Jones, CEO of ElectriCities, a non-profit organization that serves public power communities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. “Throughout 2018, a number of our member communities saw a direct economic development impact from being locally owned. Businesses throughout the country and the world recognize and appreciate the value that public power provides and find comfort in knowing their power demands will always be met. We look forward to seeing what 2019 has in store for public power in North Carolina.”

Public power providers in North Carolina—and across the nation—consistently outperform investor-owned utilities when it comes to reliability. In fact, public power experiences fewer power outages, and gets the power restored more quickly than others. A prime example of this ability to provide exceptional reliability was demonstrated during the 2018 hurricane season. Three days after Hurricane Florence made landfall, 80 percent of Fayetteville customers and 83 percent of New Bern customers had their power restored. These were two of the hardest hit communities. And 26 member communities reported no outages at all.

ElectriCities is proud to be the energy behind public power. ElectriCities is a not-for-profit membership organization that consolidates many of the administrative services needed by 70 municipally owned electric utilities operating in North Carolina. ElectriCities was formed to protect the interests of North Carolina public power communities and to provide a unified voice on state and federal issues affecting public power.

In addition, ElectriCities provides customer service and safety training, emergency and technical assistance, communications, economic development, government affairs and legal services. Through consolidation of these services, members save their customers the expense of administering these functions locally.

Economic development is a huge driver in North Carolina public power communities. The benefits of public power have helped our communities attract and retain businesses, adding a growing workforce throughout the state.

Public power communities throughout North Carolina saw some big economic development wins during the third and fourth quarters of 2018. Novo Nordisk, a multinational pharmaceutical company, expanded in Clayton with a $22 million investment, creating 22 jobs. Hanesbrands signed a lease for a 340,000-square-foot distribution center in High Point, paving the way for 200 new jobs. AirBoss of America Corp. received a performance-based grant from the One North Carolina fund to help facilitate the expansion of their existing 150,000-square-foot rubber compounding facility in Scotland Neck, creating 42 additional jobs. Enforge, which is a manufacturer of steel-formed suspension and steering assemblies for automotive companies, invested $4 million to expand its existing production plant in Albemarle, creating 44 jobs. Additionally, Sysco Foods invested $11.6 million into an expansion in Selma.

An in-house economic development team serves ElectriCities’ member communities with everything from site selection to providing demographic and market reports. Visit www.electricities.com to learn more and follow ElectriCities on Twitter @ElectriCitiesNC, Facebook @ElectriCities and Instagram @ncpublicpower.

To read the full article, click here.

How a Hydroponics Startup is Bringing Farms to Tables Everywhere

A perfect tomato tastes like summer. Juicy, warm, full of sunshine. There’s something so pure and fulfilling about a tomato just pulled from the vine. Now imagine if every tomato you ate was like that.

When you buy your produce from the store—even if it’s “local, organic” produce—it’s impossible to get that just-picked-this-morning sweetness. As with all plants, fruits and vegetables grow in seasons; if you want strawberries in winter, you’ll have to eat ones that were cultivated thousands of miles away.

Growing, packaging, and shipping food in the off-season means two things: reduced flavor, and an increased carbon footprint.

80 Acres Farms prefers to do things the other way around.

Managed by a coalition of engineers and farmers, 80 Acres Farms has developed compact, highly efficient vertical hydroponics technology that will allow cities to grow fresh food 365 days a year.
Each closed-loop system is built inside a 40-foot steel shipping container—which can be easily transported without damaging the vegetation inside. Energy-efficient LEDs provide the optimal spectrum for plants to thrive, and temperature controls keep grow zones at the perfect climate all year long—adjusted to be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, as necessary.

Each unit is, in essence, a tiny indoor farm. By reclaiming the water that plants naturally respire into the air, these movable feasts use 97 percent less water than traditional farms—while yielding 100 times more per acre—all on renewable energy, without pesticides.

This ingenious process is so efficient, a single shipping container yields 80 acres’ worth of food.

Headquartered in Cincinnati, with one facility in Arkansas, in 2016 80 Acres expanded its operations to Granite Falls in Caldwell County, North Carolina—thanks to a $125,000 North Carolina Department of Commerce Building Reuse grant. With this vital foothold in the Southeast, the company is one step closer to its vision of delivering fresh, leafy greens to customers around the United States. Their ultimate goal: to have a presence in every state.

At the intersection of high technology and roll-up-your-sleeves, get-your-hands-dirty gumption, 80 Acres proves that big problems can be solved by thinking small. At ElectriCities, we’re big proponents of this can-do innovation, and are looking forward to seeing how many cities will soon have 80 acres of their own.

To learn more, watch CEO Mike Zelkind’s TedX talk about the benefits of vertical hydroponics, and visit 80 Acres Farms at their website: https://www.eafarms.com/

Hometown Heroes: Carolyn Justice-Hinson Talks 2018 Hurricane Season

What is your role at the Fayetteville Public Works Commission?

I’m the Communications and Community Relations officer. I manage internal, external, and crisis communication—everything from educational outreach to sponsorships to community support.


How long have you been in this role?

I’ve been at PWC since 1997, and basically in the same role, but it’s changed! When I started here, we really didn’t use email, and we had a 2-page website. But the thing that has changed the most is we all realized how stakeholder communications, community relations, and all the proactive things that we do strengthen our relationships.

How do you reach so many different people last-minute, in a crisis like Florence?

We communicate frequently. We start with our grassroots channels—our commissioners, city council, and stakeholders—who can help support the message once it goes out. With Florence, we kept our message consistent. We communicated the same message on media and social media that we did with our employees and with the city council. Everyone got the same thing across the board.


How do you quantify the scope of Florence?

We had approximately 60 percent of our customers who, at some point, lost services. That’s about 50,000 people. That was quite a bit. But within 72 hours of when we were able to get out and start making repairs, the majority of those were back on.


What was your toughest moment?

The storm wouldn’t move on. That holding pattern. Having to tell customers “We can’t get out and start restoring services yet.” In all my time here, we’ve never had a storm or situation like that.


What was the most encouraging/uplifting thing?

I was so proud of our utility as a whole, our team, and our communications. But we got a Facebook message from someone in public affairs at Fort Bragg. They said they were taking some graduate courses, and they were going to recommend to their professor that we be a communications case study. My whole staff was like, “Oh my gosh!”

But we don’t do it for the praise—we do it so our customers are happy and our employees can do their jobs without customers being frustrated.

Mutual Aid At Its Best- Hurricane Season 2018

On September 14, Hurricane Florence made itself comfortable above the Carolina coast, soaking the state for days; then, barely one month later, Hurricane Michael left a mark of its own. Thanks to a coordinated communications plan and the extraordinary efforts of our brave utility workers, public power communities throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia were prepared for the worst, and soon had their power restored.

It wasn’t the most powerful storm ever to make landfall over North Carolina. But when Hurricane Florence swept ashore as a Category 1 storm on September 14, it brought with it three days of unrelenting rain and wind that leveled power lines and inundated homes.

Almost one month later, Hurricane Michael smashed into the Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane; then, weakened but still dangerous, it tracked across the Carolinas, uprooting trees and darkening homes as it passed.

A detailed chronicle of the toll exacted by these storms could fill the pages of a book. Let it suffice to say that at the peak of its wrath, Hurricane Florence left nearly 1 million North Carolinians without power; at its worst, Hurricane Michael plunged half a million people into darkness. Rivers overflowed their banks, sweeping cars from bridges and roads. At times, downed trees crushed homes and prevented emergency services from reaching ailing residents. In total, the two storms wreaked more than $31 billion in damage and cost 44 North Carolinians their lives.

And yet:

We showed up.

Three days after Florence made landfall, 80 percent of Fayetteville customers and 83 percent of New Bern customers had their power restored. These were two of our hardest hit communities. Twenty-six member communities reported no outages at all. Twenty-four hours after Michael swept through, public power crews had restored electricity to the majority of our customers. Braving venomous snakes, falling tree limbs, flash floods, and the risk of electrocution, they did not stop until the roads were clear and the lights were back on.

This was made possible by coordinated planning between state and local officials, a unified communications strategy, and the tireless efforts of public power workers and emergency services. We thank and honor the extraordinary individuals who, at nature’s worst, showed their best, and who—quite literally—helped put our state back together.