Nature Threatens Co-op PowerBy Derrill Holly | ECT Staff Writer Published: June 23rd, 2011
Co-op staffers in parts of the Southwest are hoping rain will help control several huge wildfires even as co-ops in the Midwest brace for prolonged flooding that could only worsen with heavy rains.
Officials in both areas have been de-energizing lines and removing meters and other equipment to protect co-op assets as they prepare for inevitable service disruptions.
Fire crews were managing 15 major fires nationwide as of June 21. There were also 52 large fires listed as uncontained in several states.
The Wallow Fire, which has burned more than 811 square miles in Arizona and New Mexico, is now just 56 percent contained.
“Firefighters asked us to de-energize a 69,000 volt transmission line, so they could do some back-burning,” said David Plumb, CEO of Lakeside, Ariz.-based Navopache Electric Cooperative. The line connects the co-op’s New Mexico service territory to a generating station in Springerville, Ariz.
Navopache brought in generators until transmission service could be restored to serve consumer-members who did not evacuate the threatened areas.
“The power plant and the transmission lines serving the plant have not been seriously impacted,” said Lee A. Boughey, senior manager of corporate communications and public affairs for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. The Westminister, Colo.-based G&T owns one of the four operating units at the Springerville Generating Station. Several distribution cooperatives in New Mexico are members of the G&T.
“There are regular calls concerning load serving in southern New Mexico,” said Boughey. “We feel loss of service to our member co-ops should remain a very low risk.”
Other fires are raging in Oklahoma and Texas. A burn ban is in place in 225 Texas counties. Some counties have even banned the sale and use of fireworks as communities prepare to mark the Fourth of July.
“We have still had no rain to help, and have had sustained winds of 10-20 mph every day,” said Tiffin Wortham, vice president-member services for Texas Electric Cooperatives. “We’re watching the situation very closely and praying for rain.”