Over the last few months, we have experienced a very wet and powerful monsoon season. Although we welcome the rain, these storms can lead to outages and downed power lines. When this happens our linemen, dispatchers and system operators are hard at work restoring power in a safe and timely manner.
When the power goes out, we expect it to be restored within a few hours. But when a major storm causes widespread damage, extended outages may result. Our line crews work long, hard hours to restore service safely to the greatest number of Members in the shortest time possible.
There can be a difference in response time between business hours and after business hours. After hours and on weekends, it takes crews longer to travel to affected areas because they are usually at home when an outage occurs. During business hours, crews are located throughout our (3,961 mile) service area and can respond quicker. However, travel time can sometimes take more than an hour because of our large service area. Also, during a monsoon-caused outage, road closures and running washes can delay travel.
Oftentimes, before crews arrive on scene and access the problem, Members are already looking for information. The Outage Map on our website trico.coop/outages can provide information about outages. Members can use the Outage Map rather than wait in a phone queue to speak to us about an outage. Members can also use the SmartHub app to check service status and report an outage. By signing up for outage notification, you will receive a text or email when power is out and restored.
Since this is my first summer and monsoon season at Trico, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone at Trico – especially our Linemen, Dispatchers and Member Service Representatives. It takes a lot of people to create a team to keep the lights on during an incredibly active monsoon season. I would also like to thank you, our Members, for your patience and understanding. Following are a few examples of Kudos to our team for restoring power in a safe and timely manner.
“Thank you for working in these conditions to get our electricity back up,” Member Eva Presley commented on Facebook during a power outage on July 10, that affected the Green Valley and Marana areas. “Stay safe.”
The weekend of July 9-12 was especially busy for our line crews. On July 9, a vehicle accident caused an outage for around 500 Members in the Ajo, Irvington and Camino de Oeste area. A line crew repaired the line to restore power. On July 10, about 1,800 Members lost power in the Green Valley and Marana areas due to storms. Line crews isolated the damaged equipment and performed switching to restore power.
A severe storm on July 12 resulted in 12 broken poles along Trico Marana Road, just east of Trico Road. Line crews patrolled the lines and isolated downed poles to restore power. Most repairs were completed by the next day.
“All the guys who worked this storm did a great job!” Supervisor of Distribution Construction Chris Neely said. “Just about every crew was involved one way or another.”
One of the unique things about cooperatives is how they provide education and training for their Members, elected representatives, managers and employees so that they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives.
Trico encourages employees to get the training and education they need to excel at their job. Tanya Mitchell is a great example of this.
Tanya began at Trico in 2006 as a Summer Intern and performed a variety of tasks including filing and data entry in numerous departments including Member Services, Design, IT and Accounting. She continued as an on-call employee while she attended the University of Arizona. Tanya graduated in May 2009 with a degree in Public Administration from Eller’s College of Management.
In 2010, she was offered the position of Renewable Resource Specialist, where she ensured that Trico’s renewable and demand-side management programs ran smoothly and continued to improve upon the processes and procedures of each program. While in this position, Trico was awarded Utility of the Year in 2012 by Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA).
“It was a rewarding experience to be able to take a program that was just beginning and develop it into what it is today, while also helping the Members,” Tanya said.
In 2014, Tanya transitioned to Commercial Account Specialist. In this position, she built and maintained strong, long-lasting relationships with Trico’s Commercial Accounts and Small Businesses. She also represented Trico at promotional events, trade shows, conventions, and participated in communication and business organizations, including multiple town chambers.
“In this position, I learned a lot about our service territory, and I enjoyed meeting with Members one-on-one,” she said.
Tanya was promoted to Senior Business Planning Analyst in 2019. The experience she gained from her previous positions has helped prepare her to be a better analyst.
“I have a better understanding of Trico and the Members we serve,” she said.
Tanya is also active in the community, volunteering for the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, Junior Achievement and United Way. She is also involved in the Tucson Metro Chamber’s Emerging Leaders Council and serves as Vice President of the Therapeutic Riding of Tucson (TROT) Board.
In 2020, she participated in Greater Tucson Leadership, a 10-month program designed to teach adult learners how to be leaders and to engage in their community in more meaningful and impactful ways. She graduated from the program in June 2021.
“One of the key takeaways I learned from the training is that a leader doesn’t need a title to be a leader in their community,” Tanya said.
Each summer the Trico Foundation sends local high school juniors on a trip to Washington, D.C., where more than 1,800 students from electric cooperatives across the country come together to visit our nation’s capital.
The Washington Youth Tour is a great way to meet other students from Arizona and around the country and learn about our nation’s history and politics. Students spend the week visiting monuments and memorials, exploring museums, and touring the U.S. Capitol Building. Students meet with staffers and members of Congress to discuss relevant topics that affect them and their local communities.
Trico is accepting applications for the 2022 Washington Youth Tour, which is tentatively scheduled for June 13-19. For more information and to apply, click here. The deadline to apply is November 1, 2021.
You may see Trico employees or contractors trimming trees or pruning vegetation near Trico lines. We do this to prevent trees from contacting our lines, to provide our line crews with clear access to maintain the lines and to make repairs quickly during an outage.
Maintaining vegetation helps improve reliability in our system and reduce costly damage to our lines. When performing this work, we strive to respect our Members’ privacy and protect our beautiful natural surroundings.
We do this by working within easements and rights-of-way (ROW). These are property rights that authorize Trico to install and maintain our lines and perform clean-up work. It is vital for safety and reliability that these areas be kept clear. A well-maintained right-of-way makes visually identifying any down lines easy to locate, and it makes power restoration times shorter by not having to wrangle lines out of trees. The photo above is an example of a fence that prevents our staff from getting to Trico’s power poles. You can help us by not putting up fences, structures, trees or vegetation that block access within Trico’s easements and ROW.
One employee who plays a key role in protecting our lines is our Patrolman. Trico’s Patrolman monitors Trico’s service area to make sure the equipment is working properly and there are no obstructions, including fences, trees or other vegetation. You may see our Patrolman in the field, wearing a Trico uniform and performing this important work.
The overall goal of our vegetation management program is to provide reliable power to our Members while maintaining the beauty of our community. Proactive vegetation management benefits Members in three tangible ways:
First and foremost, we care about our Members and put their safety and that of our linemen above all else. Overgrown vegetation and trees pose a risk to power lines. For example, if trees are touching power lines in our Members’ yards, they can pose a serious danger. Electricity can arc, or jump, from a power line to a nearby tree. A proactive approach diminishes the chances of fallen branches or trees during severe weather events that make it more complicated and dangerous for linemen to restore power.
Of course, one of the biggest benefits of a smart vegetation management program is reliability. Strategic tree trimming reduces the frequency of downed lines causing power outages. Proactive trimming and pruning keep lines clear to promote reliability.
We monitor our entire system and take extra steps in areas with heavy vegetation. For example, we rent a helicopter to monitor the line serving Mt. Lemmon.
As you know, Trico is a not-for-profit cooperative, and that means we strive to keep our costs down to keep our rates affordable. This extends to our approach to vegetation management. If trees grow too close to power lines, the potential for expensive repairs also increases. Effective tree trimming and other vegetation management efforts keep costs down for everyone.
Our community is a special place. We appreciate the natural beauty and do our best to limit our impact on our Members, but we also know our community depends on us to provide reliable energy. Through vegetation management, we are better able to keep the power lines clear, prepare for future weather events and secure the reliability of the grid. If you are aware of any potential hazard near a Trico line, please contact Trico at 520-744-2944, and thank you for helping to keep easements and rights-of-way clear so we can continue to provide safe, reliable power in a cost-effective manner.
One of the seven cooperative principles is Education, Training and Information. For Trico Electric Cooperative interns Mark Smalling, Emily Gauthier, Rylee Schull and Austin Cathers, this summer has been a great learning experience.
Mark has assisted the Designers with field staking and assisted Engineering in documenting and sending out as-built drawings for the Three Points Substation project. Journeyman Apparatus Technician Bill Roethle, who taught Mark the internal workings, purpose and operation of single phase reclosers, said he enjoyed working with Mark. Bill said Mark is a great student and learns fast. Mark said Bill is a great teacher, making things understandable and fun all at the same time.
Charlie Gourdin, Supervisor of Warehouse and Procurement, said Emily has shown an openness and eagerness to learn about the functions of the Warehouse and demonstrates an outstanding work ethic. “Regardless of the abbreviated timeframe she spent with us, Emily worked diligently and with a great attitude to help complete the annual testing of over 685 hot arms, hot sticks, and grounds,” Charlie said. “What an accomplishment! She has been a great addition to our Warehouse team this summer and will be missed.”
Rylee has been a valuable asset to Marketing and Communications, helping with Trico’s social media and other marketing projects. She created a brochure and fact sheet about Trico for employees.
Robert Duke, Supervisor of Information Systems, said Austin “has been a valuable member of the IT team and while we’re excited for him to continue his education we will miss his contributions until he returns.” Austin worked on computer updates, started new computer builds, and assisted IT in their software, hardware and network troubleshooting. IT included him in their software, hardware and network troubleshooting. Information Services Specialist Sabrina English said Austin “has been a great help in gathering equipment for Trico employees to start the flexible work from home schedules.”
Austin was IT’s first intern who was part of an official high school internship. He interviewed for the position, had to record regular hours, and go through the performance evaluation process. Unfortunately, Covid-19 cut the program short, but it would have culminated in a large presentation by the interns to the internship program director and the adults who mentored them.
It takes about 8,000 hours of on-the-job training to become a Journeyman Lineman. Trico has a 4-year program where apprentices learn the skills needed to earn their Journeyman Lineman certification.
Recently apprentice linemen Shem Scott, Anthony Anaya, Martin Mares and Tyler Hornung participated in a training day designed to familiarize them with the digger derrick equipment and to become comfortable with climbing poles.
For Anthony and Martin, it was just their second time on the poles. Tyler went to a climbing school in Iowa for a year and has taken classes at a community college. Shem is in the third year of his apprenticeship.
Anthony said it is good training because “you have to learn to trust your equipment.”
Under the direction of a Journeyman Lineman, the Apprentice Lineman I assists in the construction, maintenance and repair of overhead and underground power distribution and transmission lines within the scope of their training and certification.
“All three of them have been with Trico for 10 months, and over that time they have worked hard and shown commitment to this career path and commitment to serving Trico Members,” said Chris Neely, Supervisor of Distribution Construction.
Most of us use electricity, either directly or indirectly, throughout our day, both at work and at home. It powers our quality of life from our air conditioning systems and appliances to charging our smartphones, computers, TVs and Wi-Fi routers. Reliable energy is vital.
You have probably seen news stories about the tight energy markets in the western United States, especially surrounding events in California and Texas. When demand is high and the supply of power is limited, issues in one state affect the entire region, especially during the summer.
Trico made arrangements in advance of the summer to secure adequate power supplies, but as with a lot of things, there are things we can control, and things we can’t. For example, our distribution system is dependent on high-voltage transmission lines from which we get the power to deliver to your home, ranch or business. These are owned by other utility providers, and while we have contracts with them for the delivery of bulk power to our system, we aren’t in complete control.
Recently the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a request by California’s market regulator to grant California the ability to override existing utility contracts and withhold power destined for other states in emergency circumstances. Arizona’s utilities opposed this request and are disappointed in the result. For this summer, the decision increases the chance that an unusual event in California (e.g. a plant outage, a transmission line interruption, or a heat wave) could cause a supply shortage in Arizona.
We are working diligently with our power supply and transmission partners, and planning for how we can limit the potential impact on our Members if one of those unexpected events occurs. One way we can all contribute is by conserving energy during peak hours (3 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and waiting to use major appliances until after 8 pm. This reduces stress on the system and saves all of Trico’s Members money. For more information on conservation, click here or please visit Trico’s social media accounts.
One factor we do control is our distribution system, and I want to share some recent examples of ways we have improved our distribution system and reliability:
The construction of the Green Valley 69 kilovolt (kV) transmission line between the Bicknell and Green Valley substations. This project, completed over 2½ years, is the first all-steel pole line constructed on Trico’s Transmission/Distribution system. The line is needed to ensure system reliability as the existing line had been in service for 47 years and was due for replacement.
In May, the new rebuild of the Three Points Substation was completed. This is a unique design for Trico in that it has a main and transfer bus. A bus in electrical parlance is any common connection to which any number of loads are connected in parallel, all being fed more-or-less the same voltage. This allows for more flexibility in maintaining substation equipment and general serviceability and reliability.
In July, Trico’s Equipment Technicians and Operations staff installed new bird guarding in the Three Points Substation. Green Jacket is a new product that will help in preventing avian-created outages and protect equipment in the substation. Bird related outages have occurred in the past at other substations. At the Sahuarita Substation, Trico linemen installed Wildlife Protectors on insulators at the substation and a Sonic Bird Repeller unit. These steps are environmentally responsible, and they increase service reliability.
At Trico, we care about you, the Members we serve. That’s why we will continue working hard to power your life, reliably and affordably.
Have you ever noticed your lights blink during a thunderstorm? Or perhaps you’ve noticed a blinking microwave clock when you arrive home. When this happens, you’ve likely experienced a brief disruption to your electric service, which could result from a power surge or blink.
While the symptoms of surges and blinks can appear similar, what’s happening behind the scenes can be quite different.
What’s a power surge?
Power surges are brief overvoltage spikes or disturbances of a power waveform that can damage, degrade or destroy electronic equipment within your home or business. Most electronics are designed to handle small variations in voltage; however, power surges can reach amplitudes of tens of thousands of volts — this can be extremely damaging to your electronic equipment.
Surges can be caused by internal sources, like HVAC systems with variable frequency drives, or external sources, like lightning and damage to power lines and transformers.
Trico encourages Members to install surge protective devices (such as surge protector power strips) to safeguard your sensitive electronics. If you’re experiencing frequent surges in your home or business and you believe the cause is internal, contact a qualified electrician to inspect your electrical system.
What’s a power blink?
Power blinks are also brief service interruptions, but they’re typically caused by a fault (short circuit) on a power line or a protective device that’s working in reaction to the fault. Faults can occur through a variety of instances, like squirrels, birds or other small animals contacting an energized power line; tree branches touching a power line; or lightning and other similar events.
Any of the events noted above can cause your power to blink, but you may also experience a brief interruption when protective devices that act like circuit breakers are working to detect the fault. Believe it or not, these brief power blinks caused by protective devices are actually good because that means the equipment is working as it should to prevent a prolonged outage.
Regardless of the cause, Trico crews will be on their way to inspect the damage and make necessary repairs after a power outage. And you can help too! Any time you experience repeated disruptions to your electric service or an outage, please let us know by calling (520) 744-2944 or click here to report an outage.
Sign up for Outage Notifications
To receive power outage, power restored, and planned power outage notifications on your phone or by email, sign up for Outage Notifications.
Trico Electric Cooperative, Torch Clean Energy and CoBank are partnering to construct a 10 megawatt photovoltaic solar generating facility along with a 15 megawatt battery storage system on Edwin Road west of North Oracle Road, within Pinal County. The solar and battery storage project is called the Chirreon Facility (Chirreon). Construction of Chirreon will begin in fall 2021 and is projected to be in service by mid-2022.
Chirreon will have over 40,000 photovoltaic solar panels, and the 15 megawatt battery storage system will be capable of discharging 30 MWh of energy. Chirreon will be located in the Trico service area on approximately 90 acres of land owned by the Arizona State Land Department. The solar panels have single-axis tracking devices that automatically track the sun throughout the day to maximize power generation. The battery storage will help Trico delay the cost of transmission and distribution upgrades and manage area load in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.
Once operational the Chirreon facility will produce more than 30,000 megawatt-hours of energy each year, or enough to power about 3,000 average residential homes in the Trico service territory.
“As a community-owned cooperative, Trico’s mission is to provide its Members safe, reliable energy in an environmentally responsible and cost-effective manner. The battery storage system at Chirreon will be one of the first for a cooperative in Arizona, and it exemplifies Trico’s commitment to achieving its mission and serving its Members in innovative ways.” said Brian Heithoff, CEO and General Manager of Trico.
“Torch is honored to continue its partnership with Trico as we embark on our second project with them to deliver more locally generated renewable energy for the community,” said Jon Kilberg of Torch. “Building the first energy storage system for an Arizona cooperative utility is a major milestone for both the Trico community and the state! We are proud to play a role in Trico’s development of solar energy capabilities as well as its transition to a green future.”
Through a long-standing partnership, CoBank provided the financing for this project.
“CoBank Farm Credit Leasing is honored to continue our relationship with Trico to finance this innovative solution that expands its affordable and solar energy options,” said Graham Kaiser, senior relationship manager for CoBank. “As a mission-driven lender, we look forward to the completion of this project and the ability for Trico to expand its service for Members in an environmentally responsible manner.”
# # #
About Trico Electric Cooperative –
Trico is a not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative serving more than 45,000 members in northwest Tucson, Marana, Corona de Tucson, Saddlebrooke, Sahuarita, Green Valley, Three Points and Arivaca. Formed in 1945, Trico is owned by the people it serves.
About Torch Clean Energy –
Torch Clean Energy is a privately-held renewable energy developer with extensive experience developing, permitting, designing and building both solar and wind projects. Torch has over 1,400 MW of projects under development throughout the United States, including over 550 MW of contracted assets that are expected to be constructed by 2023. To learn more about Torch, visit www.torchcleanenergy.com.
About CoBank –
CoBank is a $160 billion cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. The bank also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to affiliated Farm Credit associations serving more than 75,000 farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers in 23 states around the country.
CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture, rural infrastructure and rural communities. Headquartered outside Denver, Colorado, CoBank serves customers from regional banking centers across the U.S. and maintains an international representative office in Singapore.
As summer temperatures rise, so do electric bills. Home cooling makes up a large portion of your energy bills. Try to keep the difference between the temperature of your thermostat setting and the outside temperature to a minimum. The smaller the difference, the more energy you will save.
Here are more ways to combat weather’s effects:
Weatherize your home: Your home’s first line of defense against the weather is physically blocking hot or cold air from entering. Air leaks or ineffective insulation in your walls means that the outside weather is coming in and your comfortable indoor air is leaving. Windows are trouble spots for air escaping or entering. Consider installing shades, blinds, curtains or shutters if your windows don’t already have any, especially on south- and west-facing windows. Close these in summer months to reduce heat from sunlight and open them in winter months to heat your home naturally, since 76 percent of sunlight that shines on standard double-pane windows enters your house to become heat.
Adjust the temperature with seasons, at night or when you leave the house: The greater the difference between the temperature outside and what’s set inside, the harder your home HVAC system has to work. Keeping your thermostat at the same setting all the time leads to it working harder when outside temperatures rise or dip into extreme numbers. The US Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer and 68 in the winter when you are home. You can set it closer to the outside temperature when you are asleep or away to save even more. A smart thermostat can automatically learn your schedule and change the temperature for you before you wake or return home, so it feels just as comfortable.
Use room-specific heating or cooling measures: By changing the temperature only in the rooms people are using, your HVAC doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain the entire house at a set temperature. If you’re feeling hot in the summer, try sitting under or by a fan to feel about 4 to 6 degrees cooler. Since fans don’t actually change the air temperature and only cool you down when you are near it, make sure to turn it off when you leave the room. With incandescent and halogen light, 90 percent of the energy used is wasted to generate more heat. Switch them to LEDs, and this will lead to less heat entering your room and less energy used.
Cook outdoors: When the weather is nice, put your grill to use! During summer months, cooking outdoors is a great way to save energy and eliminate unwanted heat from cooking indoors.
With a few easy changes, your home will be more equipped to handle the hot outside air without sacrificing inside comfort – and these changes will benefit you as the cool arrives this winter as well.