May 29th, 2019 by Tim Korman, Operations Manager
Here at Macon Electric Cooperative, we are focused on providing the most reliable service to our members as possible. When talking about outages there are a wide range of things that cause power interruptions. For that reason, I would like to take some time to expand on what your co-op is doing to help eliminate outages and what we have invested in to help get the power back on in the case that it does go out.
In the past few years we have purchased a metering system that has given us the ability to receive a lot of information, which helps with quicker response to outages. These meters are linked to an Outage Management System (OMS) that we have in our dispatch area, which allows us to know immediately that a meter is out. We have also linked this information with our mapping system and it will tell us if all the meters in a particular area are out as well, which can allow us to more quickly focus on that area. What makes this even more valuable is that each lineman has an iPad with them that has all the information they need to know regarding what line is out. They can quickly see our entire system on the outage map and make decisions that help restore power in the most efficient way possible.
Multiple staff members also receive automatic emails linked to every outage and this helps ensure that we have good communication with dispatch. Because of this, in the event that more help is needed, it is known immediately, and decisions can be made sooner to help get power back on to those members.
When a member calls in an outage, that phone number is linked to the co-op’s OMS and it automatically puts the outage in the system. It also puts a phone icon on the map to let dispatch and the linemen know that the member called the outage in. In addition, if the member leaves a message, we can listen to it to get information needed more quickly. Every message left on the system is listened to and, in most cases, dispatch will return the call to let the member know we received the call. The cooperative also has social media accounts and Smarthub that members can use to give us outage information. These are also linked directly to staff members’ e-mail accounts, so they receive them immediately.
As the technology becomes available, we plan to continue to invest in ways to help reduce outages and, when an outage occurs, have the means to get it back on as quickly as possible. With all this technology, there can still be issues that need to be addressed from a maintenance standpoint. Therefore, I would like to touch on things your cooperative is doing in this area. As Operations Manager, I give an outage report to your board members every month. When reflecting on this, it appears that the most outages come from lightning, fallen trees, and animals on the line.
Lately we have been aggressive in combatting these issues by visiting every transformer on our system to ensure that they have good lightning arrestors and animal guards to keep them from causing an outage. In addition, in our efforts to lessen the outages from lightning and animals, we are now building all new three-phase lines with fiberglass crossarms. The co-op also has more lightning arrestors installed than we have ever had, and we are taking steps to install more on the lines through our maintenance practices.
We are constantly battling issues with trees; therefore, we have been very aggressive with our brush control and spraying programs and feel we have seen great results with fewer outages because of it. Now, we understand that cutting and trimming trees has its positives and negatives, depending on your perspective. For example, many people do not want their trees cut, even if they are close to the line, but the member on down the line might appreciate that tree being cut the next time a large storm rolls through. At MEC, we completely understand each perspective and try to work with every scenario the best we can. Lately, with all the rain and the ground being so saturated, we have had trees as far as 50 feet uproot and go through the line. It is simply hard to combat that issue, but we are dedicated to keeping our brush under control and maintain the best right-of-ways we can in order to provide safe and reliable service.
In conclusion, our team is very dedicated to you, our member-owners, and we strive to do everything we can to eliminate outages. In the case that Mother Nature decides differently, we are striving for means to get your power back on as quickly as possible. As always, we appreciate your patience and help when outages occur.