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McMinnville Electric System going electronic
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I had a recent interview with Rodney Boyd, general manager of McMinnville Electric System, about their progress of serving citizens and businesses of McMinnville. 
MES was founded in 1939. Rodney is the utility’s third GM. Rodney says the basic electrical power distribution has not changed much for many years, but that it’s entering an era of technology changeover that will be exciting and progressive for consumers. 
MES has an exclusive distribution agreement with TVA that translates into TVA being its sole source of power distribution. MES also sells power to TVA. Peak power demand for MES is 55 megawatts, that level being reached in the last century.
During 2001, MES did a major $5.6 million capital project that resulted in a diesel cogeneration station with an output capacity of 23.65 megawatts. This capacity could cover the city of McMinnville’s electricity demand for a short-term period if TVA power was not accessible other than peak summer/ winter demand.  The generators are operated for 30 minutes at 100 percent every month to demonstrate their operation. 
There are 11 Cummins diesel engines that produce 22 megawatts when operating. Running the  generators requires 115 gallons of diesel fuel per hour, per engine. There is also a biodiesel generator at the substation that can produce 1.65 megawatts of power. MES will be adding certain emissions apparatus for the generators in the next year. While there are some solar generation plants operating in Middle Tennessee, the MES generation facility is the largest electricity cogeneration facility in our region.  TVA does openly encourage and subsidize green power generation programs.
A significant portion of MES annual capital spending is used to replace copper wire, power transformers, and electrical poles. All these materials do deteriorate. Copper wire becomes brittle over time and will break. This arena is called maintaining distribution infrastructure.
I asked Rodney about night lighting demand. This area covers street lighting, parking lot lighting, and ball field lighting. Night lighting is less than 2 percent of total MES power distribution. Night lighting is moving toward LED lighting due to lower long-term cost. A note of interest is Rodney identified Bridgestone, Yorozu Automotive, Warren County Schools, Jarden Consumer Solutions, and River Park Hospital as the five largest users of electricity in Warren County.
On the personnel front, Rodney says MES has 32 employees. Long-term administrator Jane Flatt retired last year and does help with some part-time duties. Debbie Sain joined MES in 2011 as manager of marketing and communications. Debbie has also become administrative assistant to Rodney this year.  Rodney did note MES will be interested in hiring Mechatronics graduates in the future for linemen and/ or maintenance positions.
In September 2012, MES entered the EV (electrical vehicle) world with the installation of four, 240-volt re-charging stations for owners/ drivers of electric cars. Two of the stations are at downtown HQ, while the other two are at their operations facility. 
A local benefactor has made arrangements for users to receive this service at no cost. This type of recharging station will recharge a car in four hours, half the time of a 110-volt home recharger. In review of Middle Tennessee, McMinnville was an obvious area with no recharging stations.
The four stations at MES were funded through a TVA and Department of Energy $10,000 grant. Terry Kidd of Kidd Ford has advised Rodney of plans for recharging stations to be installed at Kidd Ford by year end. Current electric car driving range of 70 to 80 miles could support a commuter from Murfreesboro or Cookeville with the use of a recharging station. Other than the capital cost, minimal electricity is needed for recharging. User demand for recharging has been low to date.
I asked Rodney about recommendations for winter heating. Rodney identifies the combination of an electric heat pump and gas heat as the most efficient and least expensive solution for winter heating.  Peak cost of summer A/C cooling and winter heating are surprisingly close. 
MES is in the midst of a five-year conversion to electronic meters.  There have been 767 electronic meters installed with 7,300 more needed for system conversion. There are currently 2,300 electronic meters on order. Electro-mechanical meters were designed in 1914. Electronic meters are more accurate, particularly on the higher usage side, allowing for immediate system troubleshooting at operations. Other advantages are service can be stopped or started quickly and remotely, manual reading is no longer required, and bills can be detailed as needed or desired.
Under consideration for the MES 2013 capital budget is a new hybrid diesel/ electric bucket truck which could be purchased with expected grant assistance. Current bucket trucks require the vehicle engines be operated the entire time the bucket apparatus is being used. This hybrid option would be very fuel efficient.
McMinnville Electric System is a vibrant entity in McMinnville and is dedicated to our community. Rodney Boyd has served the city and county in multiple roles as does his management team. Our area has prospered with MES’s continuing contributions.