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As the year wraps up, I am amazed at what your co-op has accomplished in 2021.
I’ve said it before, but I think it is worth repeating. Benton REA is experiencing rapid growth in our service area. We don’t have the final 2021 data, but I’m proud to say Benton REA has already exceeded the work that was completed in 2020 with fewer outage hours.
In 2020, our operations department completed 637 work orders, replaced 75 utility poles and kept outage hours to 45,372—an average of 3.5 hours per account. In 2021’s first three quarters, the department has already finished 587 work orders and replaced 36 utility poles that failed testing while keeping the outage time down to only 17,713 outage hours—an average of 1.15 minutes per account.
This year, Benton REA line crews built a 2.5-mile overhead and underground power line quicker than the estimated project timeline. They also completed 1.5 miles of rebuild from the Plymouth Substation to increase capacity for new growth and cleaned up a right-of-way under our power line in the White Pass area to reduce future outages and help prevent wildfires.
As of October 1, the engineering department designed and connected electric services to 344 new residences. By year end, we could reach 500—almost doubling our average yearly connection rate.
To accommodate the new load, engineering designed and started construction on a new substation on Ruppert Road in West Richland. This will take pressure off existing substations and increase reliability. Additionally, they designed a feeder out of the Plymouth Substation to divide existing load and accommodate a large agriculture processing plant.
The worldwide silicon shortage caused equipment delays this year and prevented planned upgrades to our PowerNET internet access equipment that would allow increased customer speeds across the board. However, this delay opened doors to launch broadband—at least 25 megabits per second download and upload speeds. Broadband is now available in the Cherry Hill and Ward Gap areas. There are plans to add the Whitstran area, among others, in 2022.
A full report of our 2021 operations will be published in Ruralite by early 2022. We expect 2022 to be just as productive as we continually improve efficiencies and meet the needs of our growing membership. Thank you for the opportunity to be your electric energy service provider.
Michael J. Bradshaw