Large electric companies love cities. The high concentration of people lend to more consumption of their commodity, electricity.
Those areas where the concentration is less, the demand is also less but the cost associated with serving those customers is un-proportionately high. Imagine miles and miles of poles and wires just to serve a couple of customers. Add to that the rugged territory of the Pacific Northwest and the wild storms that come off the Pacific Ocean that can destroy equipment, the costs are very high per capita.
Those of us who live rural become the leftovers, the dregs that the power companies don’t want to deal with. Co-ops are formed to service these rural customers.
West Oregon Electric was formed in the 1950’s to service those who were left out by the larger companies. The first line was strung along Timber Rd. in the 1960’s. Originally the power was very crude and could not sustain more than a light bulb or two for each customer. Dependability was not a word that was used for the power supply. The Co-op has grown over the years and now serves the rural areas of 5 counties and is constantly trying to improve the dependability of electricity.
With this last storm and all the power outages, customers were reminded that the Co-op is not a large operation. Crews from 5 other agencies were called in to assist with downed wires and complete repairs safely before recharging lines.
The big issue was the power surge. We found out it was one of the big high-powered supply lines from the BPA (Bonneville Power Administration, the BIG company that supplies the Co-op with power). One of the lines had snapped with the great amount of wet snow that coated all the lines. As the electrified line fell, it hit one of the other lines and created an electrical explosion that traveled through the Co-op lines. Many customers were impacted. The surge even took out the cell towers on top of the tunnel, crews had to bring in snow-cats just to get up the logging roads to the towers so work could begin on them to re-establish the communication grid. This took several days.
The other big issue was the volume of snow and the miles of lines that were broken and downed from falling trees that could no longer bear the weight of the snowfall. These repairs also took several days, the last areas to be charged back up were out of power for 5 days or more.
Crews worked shifts around the clock to restore power. Even though the farm is set so disruption of power doesn’t bother the cows, it is good to be able to walk from room to room without carrying your light with you all the time.