Thursday, May 09, 2013
SWEPCO states that the new proposed 48-mile Shipe Road to Kings River high voltage transmission line is needed to support growth in Northwest Arkansas and Southern Missouri. One of the larger power providers in the region, Carroll Electric Cooperative Corp. (CECC), has seen total electric consumption increase by 42 percent in the past decade, and by 19 percent since 2006, according to CECC spokesman Nancy Plagge.
Plagge said statistics for Carroll County are not readily available, nor are they alone germane to SWEPCO’s project. Carroll County has only 27,512 people, which is greatly eclipsed by the 227,556 population of Benton County.
“It is Carroll Electric’s understanding the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) ordered SWEPCO to build this line to improve bulk transmission service in northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri,” Plagge said. “Strengthening the bulk transmission grid preserves service reliability to more than one-half million residents in the region, including Carroll Electric’s members.”
Carroll Electric is not intervening in the proceedings before the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) to determine if there is a need for the facility and, if a need is found, which of six alternative routes will be considered.
“Carroll Electric is not a party to the proceedings being held by the APSC and is not taking a position on any of the routes under consideration,” Plagge said. “Ultimately, the APSC will determine the route. Carroll Electric recognizes the route the project will take is of great concern to everyone involved. We equally respect the interests of landowners affected by the route, as well as the difficult challenges routing this project ordered by SPP through such a growing and vibrant area poses to SWEPCO.”
Plagge said it is the role of SPP to determine the need for transmission improvements in compliance with regulations from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. SWEPCO has submitted information from SPP to the APSC, and SPP has filed a motion to intervene in the case.
When asked about whether energy conservation and use of renewable energy could negate the need for the highly controversial new power line, Plagge said Carroll Electric has been preaching energy efficiency and conservation since the oil embargo of the 1970s. She said the company offers free energy audits, free building leakage tests, free energy efficiency seminars and a partnership with Energy Star. Federal and state efficiency rebates are promoted when available.
“Yet our demands continue to rise as new accounts connect to the system,” Plagge said. Questions have been raised about the size of the tall buildings under construction at the CECC headquarters in Berryville. Plagge said the headquarters buildings in Berryville had been bursting at the seams for a number of years, which posed an interesting question for the board of directors. Should the headquarters remain in Carroll County, its roots, or be relocated to Benton County where 60 percent of its customers are located?
“In 2008, the board directed management to begin plans for expanding the Berryville headquarters warehouse and office facilities, leaving one of Carroll County’s largest employers and property taxpayers in Carroll County,” Plagge said. “The original headquarters building was built in 1973 with the vision it would meet the cooperative’s needs for the next 30 years. That was 40 years ago. This same vision is being applied to the expansion of the Berryville facilities.”
Plagge said record low interest loans are funding the expansion, materials and construction prices continue to be affordable, the buildings are engineered to be extremely energy efficient by utilizing geothermal technology, and local contractors have been used keeping many Carroll County residents employed.
“The final phase of Carroll Electric’s expansion will include a reopening of the community room with state-of-the-art multi-media technology,” Plagge said. “Providing this facility to the general public was an important factor to the board of directors in deciding to keep the headquarters facility in Berryville. The cooperative is privileged to help Carroll County continue to grow.”
This past year CECC ended the year with just over 89,100 consumers and purchased a total of 1.88 billion kilowatt hours from the Arkansas Electric Cooperation Corp. for their members.
Plagge did not answer questions about the tall concrete structure at the new complex that has only one large opening at the top. People have questioned what the tower is for. A source who has looked at the drawings of the expansion at the headquarters said the structure listed is an elevator shaft, and that a building will be built around the tower, although elevator shafts normally have openings on each floor.
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