NC electric co-ops launch new innovative partnerships - Carolina Country

The Co-op Spirit of Innovation

NC electric co-ops are launching new innovative partnerships to better serve their members.

By Greg Puckett

Greg Pucket

Greg Pucket

Since the early days of rural electrification, co-ops have been innovators in our field. Through our history we’ve found ways to bring service to unserved communities, ever improving access to reliable, affordable, safe electricity as technology has advanced.

That spirit continues to drive us today, and in a time of uncertainty as our industry evolves, we are pursuing and applying new technologies that help us maintain reliable service while giving members better control of their energy use.

For example, at my co-op, Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation in Dobson, we’ve launched a partnership with North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation (NCEMC) and Hollar & Greene Produce, one of Surry-Yadkin’s commercial/agricultural member-owners and the largest cabbage distributor in the United States. The eTRU (electric transportation refrigeration unit) project has been a win-win for Hollar & Greene Produce and Surry-Yadkin EMC.

The eTRU project allows the trucking company to use a hybrid refrigeration unit to cool its cabbage with electricity while in staging at the distribution center, reducing the diesel it needs to purchase and burn. This innovative project has allowed the cooperative to help a member-owner reduce carbon emissions in order to meet standards set by their customer’s sustainability goals. (Learn more here.)

This innovative project has allowed the cooperative to help a member-owner reduce carbon emissions…

Also in 2023, Surry-Yadkin applied for a Department of Energy (DOE) Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships grant. Our application was one of a handful of co-op projects awarded nationally, saving our member-owners more than $7 million to harden the grid and make our power more reliable.

This infrastructure work will include the installation of new innovative technology — called FLISR (fault location, isolation and service restoration) devices — which will allow us to locate and respond to outages more efficiently, reducing outage restoration times. It will provide security monitoring in the field, as well as increase reliability and redundancy of electricity on some of our most critical circuits. This means if the power has an interruption for some reason, such as a storm, in that critical area, we will be able to switch power from another area so there is little to no interruption to the member-owners. This is called a “self-healing” circuit.

The co-op has skin in the game, too. The $15 million, five-year grant project requires a little more than a 50% match from the co-op with the DOE covering the other just under 50%. We are investing in our infrastructure to benefit the member-owners and the community through job creation and economic development.

This year, Surry-Yadkin EMC will join other electric co-ops across the state in deploying a battery storage system at our newest substation. These projects allow power generated on the grid to be stored in a battery facility. During critical peak use times, the stored energy can be placed back on the grid to help offset the high demand. Ten such battery systems are currently operating at North Carolina co-op substations, with another dozen in the works.

Innovation continues to drive the electric industry, and North Carolina’s electric co-ops are always on the hunt for the best ways to serve our member-owners — whether that is through direct member services projects, grid reliability projects or other new initiatives. Together, we are building a brighter future that allows us to continue our mission of powering and empowering the people and communities we serve.

About the Author

Greg Puckett is executive vice president and general manager for Dobson-based Surry-Yadkin EMC.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.

Like this?

Share it with others