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MES gets charge out of birthday celebration
Photo by Ameen Fahmy on Unsplash

McMinnville Electric System has celebrated a powerful birthday.

The utility has turned 80 years old and recognized the occasion by giving customers treats on Monday of free ice cream sandwiches and Dr Pepper.

Randy Garrison is the company’s longest serving employee with 46 years of experience. He began working for MES right out of high school at age 17.

“The metering is now all automated,” said Garrison. “We don’t even have to leave the building to check your meter. We can also turn your power off and on and never have to leave the building.”

As the manager of energy services, Garrison can determine how much electricity used in your home and when. He can even pinpoint unexpected power usage down to a 15-minute window to tell you exactly when it occurred.

Clyde Winters retired in 1973 after serving McMinnville Electric System for 34 years as its superintendent and manager. Don Collette, a native of Rockwood, Tenn., became the new system manager. 

McMinnville Electric System weathered the oil embargo and energy conservation years of the ’70s and ’80s, offering consumers such programs as home weatherization and the heat pump program. MES officials say many of customers took advantage of these programs to better insulate their homes and to help conserve energy. 

In 1983, MES employees celebrated the completion of one-half million employee hours worked without a lost-time accident. In 1991, the one million mark was surpassed. MES employees were able to complete 19 consecutive years without a lost-time accident. MES and its employees were afforded many awards and recognitions in light of this accomplishment.

After Collette’s retirement in 1999, Rodney Boyd, who came from North Georgia with 21 years of experience in the electrical utility industry, was hired as only the third general manager/ CEO in MES history.

In June 2001, MES became one of the state’s first power systems to become both a distributor and a supplier of electrical power to the TVA. 

Eleven 2-megawatt diesel generators were installed at the utility’s East McMinnville Substation, located in an industrial section of the city.

MES contracted to provide 20 megawatts of power to TVA. The additional two megawatts of capacity is used for reserve or backup to ensure reliability. This generating facility is used during times of peak load or when power supply is short. The capacity of this facility can generate power for roughly 45% of MES’s peak load and power the load for all homes in McMinnville during an energy crisis.

In 2004, McMinnville Electric System (MES) became the first municipal electric system in the United States to generate electricity using a clean burning fuel made primarily from soybeans (BioDiesel). 

The McMinnville BioDiesel Project was a collaborative effort among MES, the US. Department of Energy, TVA, Stowers Caterpillar, EmeraChem, the American Public Power Association, the Tennessee Soybean Growers Association, and the University of Tennessee.  

To date, the BioDiesel generator has over 1,000 hours of operation and has used 187,500 gallons of 100% BioDiesel to produce 1,500,000 kilowatt hours of clean, renewable power.