Local Initiatives

Co-op Kids Get Up Close with Power

By Derrill Holly | ECT Staff Writer Published: August 17th, 2012

Dozens of co-op kids from South Dakota recently got a close-up view of electric power production and learned a lot about how electric cooperatives reach out to their consumer-members. They also got a chance to see how energy being produced in their region could shape their career choices in the years ahead.

Young consumer-members from a dozen electric cooperatives in South Dakota visited Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Antelope Valley Station and the Dakota Gasification Company, in Beulah, N.D. (Photo By: Brenda Kleinjan/SREA)

Young consumer-members from a dozen electric cooperatives in South Dakota visited Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Antelope Valley Station and the Dakota Gasification Company, in Beulah, N.D. (Photo By: Brenda Kleinjan/SREA)

“We piled kids in two buses and wound our way north through the territories of several co-ops before crossing into North Dakota,” said Brenda Kleinjan of the South Dakota Rural Electric Association. “The buses leave from opposite sides of South Dakota and the two tours converge in Bismarck.”

Kleinjan is director of communications and member relations for the South Dakota statewide, and she’s been coordinating the annual Youth Excursion program for 12 years.

“We pack a lot into 40 hours, the kids learn a lot about co-ops and energy but they also have a lot of fun too,” Kleinjan said, when asked about the recent trip.

“It was cool to see the many ways to produce energy used by millions of people each day,” wrote Clay McFarland, in a letter to Wall, S.D.-based West River Electric Association. “I had a great time, and if I had an opportunity to do it again, I would.”

Twelve co-ops sent 38 students on the youth excursion this year. Besides educational sessions on energy efficiency, conservation and consumer outreach programs offered by South Dakota’s Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives, there were also tours of four energy-related sites.

A stop north of Beulah, N.D., included visits to the Freedom Mine, an open-pit lignite coal facility that supplies fuel for Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s adjacent Antelope Valley Station. They also visited the Great Plains Synfuels Plant, owned by the Dakota Gasification Company, a Basin Electric subsidiary.

“The synfuels plant is the only commercial-scale coal gasification plant in the United States that manufactures natural gas,” said Daryl Hill, supervisor of media relations and communications for the Bismarck-based G&T. The tour buses also drove through the Wilton Wind Energy Centers. The privately owned wind farms supply Basin Electric with enough electricity to power 24,000 homes.

“We try to give the young people an opportunity to see some of the diverse methods we use to produce energy for homes, farms and businesses,” Hill said. “They also learn about career opportunities they might pursue in the energy industry right here in the region.”

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