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Powerful Living One Giant By Mary Logan Wolf Photo by Mary Logan Wolf Leap


How advanced technology is helping co-op members weather the storm


T


he storm arrived at dusk on June 30, 2014. Winds up to 86 mph steamroll- ed the Oklahoma Panhandle, toppling 60-foot-tall cottonwood trees and snap- ping power poles in forceful downbursts. At the golf course in Beaver, Okla., Bill Greenfi eld was wrapping up his evening golf game when he no- ticed dark clouds rolling in from the west. Before he could steer his golf cart to shelter he got the fi rst call. “After that, my phone barely stopped ringing,” he recalled.


A service technician for Tri-County Electric


Cooperative (TCEC) based in Hooker, Okla., Greenfield is a familiar face around Beaver. Because he is a friend of many TCEC members, in times of outages Greenfi eld often receives calls from community members as well as from the TCEC offi ce. In minutes, Greenfi eld received roughly 30 more calls, all from co-op members sharing they were out of power. “Out here, the linemen and service technicians are the face of the co-op,” Greenfi eld explained. “When our members have problems or need in- formation, they usually call us fi rst.” They continue to call, too, asking nicely and sometimes not, “When—WHEN—will my power be back on?” This time, Greenfi eld had a better answer. “I told everyone I could to go to our website and see our outage map,” he said. The map, which went live just three months before the June windstorm, shows active outage


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areas in TCEC’s service territory and gives visi- tors the option to zoom in and check the number of outages by county. Viewable on a cell phone, iPad, tablet or computer, with or without the co- op’s mobile app, the outage map interfaces with TCEC’s customer information system, online customer service portal, automated meters, map- ping, dispatch and fi eld operations in a highly effi cient fl ow of two-way information. In one click, co-op members, news media or anyone with Internet access can see what areas are with- out power and how many meters are affected. With updates every 10 minutes, the map gives viewers a near-live panorama of the power resto- ration process. For TCEC and other Oklahoma co-ops de- ploying similar technology, the online outage map is helping ease member anxiety during ma- jor power outages.


“It helps our members see the big picture,” said


JuliAnn Graham, TCEC’s communications co- ordinator. “When they can see the extent of the outage they realize they aren’t the only ones sit- ting at home without power. Because they can watch the outage numbers decrease on the screen, they also feel reassured that we are making real progress.” The June 30th storm left 40 percent of the


TCEC system in the dark. Throughout the recov- ery process, Graham issued a steady fl ow of press releases, online news updates and social media posts on the status of the restoration effort. With each notice, she included a link to the live outage


map. As a result, TCEC and its members came through the experience well informed and more united in the feeling that “we’re all in this together.” For electric co-op members, staying better in- formed during an outage emergency is one of the many far-reaching benefi ts of advanced outage management system (OMS) technology. As elec- tric co-ops transition to the Smart Grid—namely automated meters, geographic information sys- tems (GIS), and two-way digital communications among practically every device on the electric grid—members stand to benefi t. Some advantages include a better understanding of energy use pat- terns (such as kilowatt-hour usage and interval demand readings), less time in the dark, and more control over every aspect of the consumer expe- rience, from when they pay their bill to how they choose to communicate with their co-op. For co- ops, the technology promises enhanced safety and reliability, more effi cient use of time and resources, improved communications, and the ability to be proactive in monitoring and correct- ing problems before they escalate. TCEC member April Coble of Goodwell,


Okla., relied heavily on her co-op’s mobile app for storm updates following the June storm. “Knowing we could contact someone for help through the app if our service still had problems after general service was restored took one ele- ment of anxiety out of the equation,” Coble said. “It was an added peace of mind to know we could stay in touch in some form, rather than trying to


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