TVEC’s engineers ensure the growth, change and technological innovation that is a constant in the electrical industry is seamlessly incorporated into an electrical grid that is more than 80 years in the making.
Turning concepts and theory into something concrete and workable takes equal parts brainpower and art, but for the engineers who work at Trinity Valley Electric Cooperative, it is just another day at work. When you throw in the importance of electricity in the everyday lives of more than 50,000 co-op members, there can be a real satisfaction in getting that job done well.
“I love seeing something built, the finished product when we have planned it, designed it and we’ve made a solution that our linemen in the field have the most options to keep things running,” said Tim Craig, TVEC’s manager of engineering. “It really is a matter of working together with the ones who actually use this equipment on a day-to-day basis, and seeing things become a reality.”
TVEC’s engineers are tasked with ensuring the growth, change and technological innovation that is a constant in the electrical industry is seamlessly incorporated into an electrical grid that is more than 80 years in the making.
“We do long term studies to look at what the system needs to accommodate. Can what we physically have in the field work for what is coming?” Craig said. “It takes a long time to get pieces in place, and there is a lot of planning to get things into the system to sectionalize new areas and build in things that will help minimize outages or service interruptions going into the foreseeable future.”
Behind the scenes, the engineers have a lot of work to do as well. The math may always stay the same, but advances in electrical equipment, mapping technology and even the tools used to build the lines means working methods change over time. For example, the use of bucket trucks to access poles and install equipment has changed how each component can be attached, but some poles must still be climbed. Linemen need a standard for attaching transformers and wires that can be safely done by both methods. It is up to the engineers to come up with the solution.
The same is true for changes in the electrical industry overall, like the addition of residential solar generation systems.
“When we were setting up our system to accept solar and other distributed generation, there were a lot of regulatory issues and documentation that we were involved with,” Craig said. “Now that system is up and running and we welcome members to add solar to their energy mix if it makes sense for them. But we also need to make sure that those systems are safe for our workers and the general public since they are producing electricity that could potentially energize downed or damaged lines that are turned off on our end. Anything coming into our system has to coordinate with our safety equipment.”
With nearly 24 years on the job, and a combined 50 years of local experience for his staff, Craig is confident that TVEC members get the benefits of local knowledge combined with professional expertise that co-ops are known for.
“A good, practical understanding of our system and also knowing the area and having eyes on the system all the time …even knowing people who live on our lines and where buildings are located, that increases our service level,” Craig said. “Our group has great people working to make the infrastructure we share the best it can be for all of our members.”