Watts News
 Published for the members of North Itasca Electric Cooperative
VOL. 19 NO. 1  -  January 2016

Cold Weather Rule Notification   |   Energy Assistance Programs

Spiritwood strengthens local economy  

It’s a common sight to see semi trucks hauling grain near the farming community of Spiritwood, N.D.

That area became busier last summer when farmers started delivering corn to the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy ethanol biorefinery which began operations.

The area has always been rich in corn production. In fact, Stutsman County produced about 18.6 million bushels of corn in 2014, the latest year for which figures are available.

“Dakota Spirit AgEnergy has created a market for virtually every bushel of corn produced in the county,” said Terry Wanzek, farmer and state senator for District 29, which includes Jamestown, N.D.

That benefits farmers, but also local cities, counties, the state and region.


Water quality in the Big Fork River Watershed  

by Sally Sedgwick

A water quality meeting in Marcell during January brought state and county staff together with residents to look at the Big Fork River Watershed progress under WRAPS (Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy), a 10 year project initiated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and other state agencies and departments. The project, started in 2010, will look at the current water quality in all of the 81 watersheds in Minnesota and seek to create a local framework to bring water quality up to standards.

Currently 120 lakes and 33 river segments in the Big Fork River Watershed between Dora Lake and Rainy Lake have been analyzed, with 114 lakes and all river segments meeting water quality standards. Examples of water chemistry that reflect surface water quality are nutrient loads (phosphorus and nitrogen) that create algae blooms, clarity and pH (acidity).

Lakes that are already listed as impaired for too many nutrients include Jesse Lake (2004), Round Lake (2008) and Island Lake (2010). This has triggered a TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) analysis that is complete for Jesse Lake and is currently being done for Island Lake. The TMDL looks at all sources of nutrients in an effort to reduce the loading.


Using technology to improve service and reliability  

by Jared Echternach, CEO


It’s often an overused and ambiguous word that can mean anything from a smart phone to a gaming system to everything in between, but I wanted to take some time this month to explain how technology is helping your cooperative improve service to our members and the reliability of your electric distribution system. I’d also like to talk about how we will continue to pursue technological advances that will improve how we serve our members.

North Itasca Electric Cooperative was formed 75 years ago, and in those early years if a member experienced an outage, they would write a note on a postcard or letter and pop it in the mail, or even travel to the office to report the outage. I remember hearing stories of co-op employees opening the mail to find a note stating something to the effect that ‘…the lights went out about a week ago and the next time you have a crew in the area could they please stop by and fix it?’ That mindset – and patience – is unheard of today and our expectations are much higher. In our age of instant gratification if a member is out of power for hours we think that is unacceptable.

Fortunately today’s technological advances have allowed us to become more efficient and effective in serving our members. For example, Oil Circuit Reclosures (OCRs) allow the distribution grid to restore power during a momentary interruption. Automatic switches allow our transmission operators to switch feeds remotely rather than sending a crew to a location to operate the switch manually. This was evidenced recently as a transmission outage disrupted power to three of our five substations. With the addition of the Ortman Substation and remote switching capabilities, what could have been a two-hour outage or longer was reduced to minutes.


Chapman logo

Meter upgrade 

Over the past year your cooperative has upgraded the metering equipment at each of our substations as part of a two-phase meter upgrade project. The second phase of this project is to replace the meters at each of our service locations.

We have hired Chapman Metering, a respected installation contractor who works closely with electric cooperatives, to complete our meter replacement project. This work began in December and will take two to three months to complete. Chapman Metering crews will be working throughout our service area and will be driving white vehicles with their company logo (shown) displayed on the side. Crews will only need to access the cooperative’s metering equipment and do not need to access your home or business.

If you have any questions about this process, please contact North Itasca Electric at (218) 743-3131.

Cost of showering and savings options 

by Jerry Loney

What is the cost of showering? Depending on family behavior and the number of people in a family, the amount of water needed to be heated plays a large role in the cost of showering. In today’s market, shower head designs have become ecofriendly, reducing the amount of water consumed, but there are still a number of shower stall installations which can consume a tremendous amount of water. If you have watched a particular home remodeling television show on Saturday morning, you may have seen shower remodels where multiple shower heads were installed. As fancy as they are, that luxury does not come without a price. It take energy to heat water and the more shower heads and larger shower heads means higher energy bills.

On the next page is a chart showing the cost of taking a 5 minute shower vs. a 10 minute shower using both a standard shower head with a flow of 3 gallons of water per minute and an energy saver shower head with a flow of 1.5 gallons per minute. You will also see the cost savings using North Itasca Electrics ETS Storage Water Heating Program.


Understanding Load Management Receivers & Control Signals 

Load management controllers are used on both Minnkota and Great River Energy's power grids. But the way of controlling these devices are much different in each case.

Minnkota uses what is called a power line carrier which sends signals to a ripple controller through the power lines, communicating whether or not to open or close relays which govern the operation of heating equipment. Great River Energy also sends signals to govern heating equipment, but instead of signals traveling through the power lines, they travel through air waves much like the signals we receive and turn up to hear our favorite tunes played on the radio.


February 2016 Calendar of Events 

4 Storytelling at Marcell Town Hall, 2-4 p.m. Everyone welcome, treats and coffee.
8 Women of the Woods meet at 10 a.m. at Sand Lake Community Center. Call Pat Sievertson at 659-2157 or Marlys Maki at 659-2901.
8 Deer River ISD 317 School Board meets, DRHS Media Center, 6 p.m.
8 Blackduck ISD 32 School Board meets, 7 p.m., Media Center.
9 Stop and Stitch at Marcell Family Center, 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Bring $1, project to work on and a sack lunch. Come and go. Contact Rhonda 259-9220 or Judy at 832-3237
10 Bigfork Lions Club meets second Wednesday, 6 p.m. at Golf on the Edge.
10 South Koochiching-Rainy River School Board meets 7 p.m. at Northome ITV studio.