powerlinesAlthough lighting up a dark barnyard with electricity may seem straightforward today, rural Oklahoma farmers struggled almost eight decades ago to do the same. At that time, rural neighbors formed nonprofit electric co-ops to obtain power, and farmers often raised electric poles. Usually, investor-owned utilities refused to provide rural service because it lacked profit.

“That’s why cooperatives were formed in Oklahoma in the late 1930s and early 40s,” says Sid Sperry, Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC). “Farmers and ranchers banded together and said, ‘We need power in rural areas.’ ”

Today, 27 distribution and two generation-transmission co-ops own 112,000 miles of power lines running through every county. That mileage represents twice the length of the combined power lines of the state’s investor- and municipal- owned utilities. However, the co-ops account for just a quarter of Oklahoma’s electric sales. They serve around five consumers per mile of line, compared to 38 in investor-owned utilities and 58 in municipal utilities.

History museums recount the changes electricity brought to the farm. For example, barn lights got rid of the need for kerosene lamps. Suddenly, rural customers had the same conveniences as their urban neighbors at their fingertips, which revolutionized productivity, Sperry says. Electric co-ops are obligated to provide affordable, reliable power to even those in isolated areas.

Following that mission, the OAEC has worked closely with emergency agencies for nearly a decade to pre-position generators ahead of forecasts for severe weather. Electric co-ops work with the Oklahoma Emergency Management Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to predict the most vulnerable rural areas.

See Also:  A Special Relationship


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here