Todd Nalley, the engineer in charge of substations at Horry Electric Cooperative, is always on a mission when it comes to substation training. Usually, it’s right here in Horry County or at least in South Carolina. This time, however, his mission took him overseas to Bolivia as part of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s International Foundation. He shared his experience with guests of the cooperative at the fall member services dinner, held earlier tonight.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, known as NRECA, is the national service organization for electric cooperatives throughout the United States. Formed in 1942, NRECA has historically been an advocate for consumer-owned cooperatives on energy and operational issues as well as rural community and economic development. “Cooperation among cooperatives is one of the seven guiding principles that govern electric cooperative operations,” says Danny Shelley, chief financial officer of Horry Electric Cooperative. “Our relationship and involvement with NRECA and our own statewide association, The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, gives us the ability to do a lot of things we wouldn’t be able to carry out on our own,” he continues. “Our business model, our guiding principles, the resources we share with our sister cooperatives on a local, statewide and national basis set us apart and make us different from other forms of business.”
In 1962, twenty years after the ‘cooperative difference’ took root in the form of rural electrification in the United States, NRECA developed a partnership with the newly established U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as a means of exporting America’s model of cooperative rural electrification. Since then, NRECA has been active in spreading the ‘cooperative difference’ through rural electrification programs in foreign countries and has sent more than 400 rural electrification advisors to assignments in over 50 countries.
Nalley’s assignment in Bolivia was to visit nine urban and three rural substations of CRE, the largest power distribution system in Bolivia and the oldest overseas co-op affiliated with NRECA. Together with Robin Blanton, manager of engineering at Piedmont EMC in North Carolina, Nalley visited the sites and then offered recommendations for standardization of design features.
“It was as much a learning experience for me as it was for them,” says Nalley, whose primary advice to his counterparts with CRE was to keep things simple and as standardized as possible. “Don’t try to reinvent the wheel every time something new comes along,” he told them, “But don’t be afraid to change things when it is truly necessary.”
Nalley’s mission was a first for him, but it is the third time Horry Electric Cooperative has been represented among the volunteers working overseas for NRECA’s International Foundation. Ashley Johnson, lineman/training coördinator volunteered for a project in the Dominican Republic in 2000 and another in Sudan in 2005.
Overseas volunteer efforts are coordinated by the Foundation. “They make all the arrangements,” says Nalley. “All I had to do was get approval from Horry Electric to serve as a volunteer, pack a bag and go.”
Look for details about Nalley’s experience in the November/December edition of South Carolina, which will be mailed mid-November.