Founded in 1938, Shelby Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Shelby Electric) is one of 1,000 electric distribution cooperatives in the U.S. Shelby Electric serves 9,805 members (over 2,233 miles of line) in portions of nine counties in central Illinois.
Located in the county seat of Shelbyville –78 miles southeast of Springfield and 210 miles south of Chicago – Shelby Electric is one of 26 distribution electric cooperatives in the state of Illinois and a member of Touchstone Energy, an alliance of more than 685 local, consumer-owned electric utilities around the country. Forty million electric consumers in the U.S. today receive power from electrical distribution cooperatives.
In 2005, Shelby Electric installed a Two Way Automatic Communications System (TWACS) at all member locations. TWACS is an automatic meter reading technology for collecting consumption or diagnostic data from energy meters for billing, troubleshooting or analysis. In Shelby’s case, the wireless TWACS module could also be used to turn off a member’s service in a peak load period and turn on a standby generator.
As demand-related expenses typically account for more than 35 percent of all power costs, Shelby Electric needed to install a program to reduce power, create savings and allow the cooperative to manage peak demand during high load periods. Central to this program was offering members an automatic standby power generation program.
Finding the right technology was key to the success of this endeavor. Automatic standby generators need fuel, like propane, and Shelby Energy Company, a wholly owned subsidiary, was available to supply propane gas services to member and non-member homes, farms and businesses.
With the load management program defined and a fuel supplier close by, the next step was to locate a manufacturer with the right product and technology to step into this management program. An April 2006 severe storm which caused wide spread outages accelerated the investigation.
For reliability and peace of mind, the board of directors decided to intensify their search for a whole-house automatic standby generator. Standby generators produce a higher quality of electricity, run weekly self-tests and automatically shut off when power returns.
The TWACS infrastructure would enable the cooperative to automatically switch to standby power those with generators on the system. This would implement an interruptible rate program passing along savings to those participating.
It didn’t take long for the cooperative management team to discover Generac Power Systems, Waukesha, Wis. One of the oldest manufacturers of portable and standby generators (since 1959), Generac’s air-cooled 7-20 kW models perfectly fit Shelby’s member profiles.
Generac models come equipped with a pre-wired transfer switch which supplies power to essential circuits within 30 seconds of a utility outage. They also operate on natural gas or liquid propane and are installed outside like a central air conditioning unit. Shelby Electric’s Kevin Bernson, vice president of media and public relations, documents the benefits of this innovative program:
“- For every 100 generators installed, the cooperative can increase peak demand control by approximately 1 MW. Every 1 MW of controlled demand has resulted in $50,000 in annual cost savings.
“- Shelby Energy earned Generac’s Elite dealer status allowing them to offer discounted cost-savings to members and a substantial revenue stream to the cooperative through the sale of generators (members and non-members alike) and increased sales of propane. Shelby Energy also provides installation, maintenance and warranty services.
“- Participating Shelby families benefit with a reduced rate each month off the energy portion of their bill, increased customer service and the peace of mind from knowing they will never be without power.
“- The cooperative benefits two ways. First, they can better manage where to send crews in the restoration process following a major outage. Second, they can decrease their power costs during peak demands.
“Since we implemented this program, Shelby Electric has realized major benefits,” Bernson said. “Last winter we had a severe ice storm which caused six days of power outages. Members who purchased Generac’s air-cooled 7-20 kW generator comfortably remained with power. Members who signed up for the interruptible rate were rewarded as the energy portion of their electric bill was lowered each month.
“The board of directors has been pleased with Generac’s savvy and cooperation. They appreciate the outstanding return on this investment as well as the synergism of this relationship. Generac representatives willingly answer our questions and remain in contact to see that our needs are met. They provide training opportunities, visit us often and are always available to assist with demonstrating Generac systems to visitors.”