Thursday, Oct. 21, Nashville, TN – It was great to connect with our fellow Tennessee Municipal Electric Association members this past week in Nashville! There were a multitude of topics and panels, and I enjoyed learning more about the issues affecting Tennessee’s co-op and municipal utilities. The conference kicked off with golf on Wednesday, but, being horrible at the game, I opted not to participate. Thursday’s schedule of events began with a nice welcome speech from Jack Baxter (NES), during breakfast on the 21st floor of the AC Marriott Hotel. One in a group of new hotels and high-rises added to the rapidly changing Nashville skyline. The views were breathtaking!
We were enthralled by the devastating photos that Mike Buri (NES) shared during the Lessons Learned from a Natural Disaster presentation. I learned a lot about how important their software programs and drone footage for mobilizing and organizing many crews all at once.
Next up, we head more about TVA’s Flexibility Program and how member co-ops and munis can take advantage of reduced bills through generating 5% of their own power through local sources like wind, solar + storage and natural gas.
FlexGen’s own VP of Development, Jason Abiecunas, took the stage along with George Reed (Origis Energy), and Ricky Witherspoon (Fisher Arnold) who acts as counsel to TMEPA. Brian Solsbee (TMEPA) did a great job getting the conversation started for the Flexibility Consideration for Solar and Energy Storage panel. There were lots of insightful questions from the audience.
After the panel TMEPA members held their Business Meeting Status Report followed by the TVA EV Initiative Update given by Travis Reid (TVA). It was great to folks are collaborating around the challenges and opportunities that electric vehicles will bring to the valley.
This year, a new format was introduced with breakout sessions in the more intimate setting of the Rooftop Bar.
The breakout sessions included:
- Annual Broadband Study for Rural America – Scott Meyer (Innovative Systems)
- Marketing Strategy, Owning the Subscriber’s Experience – Betsy Ray (Calix)
- Technology Implementation, Fiber Optimization – Barry Walton (Corning), Davis Hacker (BTES) and William Plank (EPB)
- LPC Deployment Case Studies – John Williams (Magellan), Christy Batts (CDE), Brad Zill (Milan) and Brian Coate (Tullahoma), with Evann Freeman (EPB) giving introductions.
I was able to make the LPC Deployment Case Studies and the takeaway was do not include video in your lineup of offerings!
The regular sessions for the afternoon included Vegetation Management Best Practices where Barry Jones (KUB) led us through how their team creates rotating maintenance schedules to keep trees and kudzu vines at bay. The Substation Maintenance portion presented by Kevin Roberts (KUB) included a crazy photo from a blown bushing, yikes!
The Lockout/Tagout: Getting it Right Before it’s too Late presentation by Kevin Goins (AUB) reminded us how safety must be at the top of everyone’s mind when working on site to prevent accidents.
The day ended with a reception in the Exhibit Hall, giving everyone the chance to catch up and admire attendees who wore their Predators jerseys. Then, a big group of us walked down the street to the Bridgestone Arena to root for the Preds as they took on the NY Rangers. Brad Zill (Milan) was awesome – he escorted me to the line for the x-ray machine since I made the rookie mistake of bringing a bag. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house, and I was lucky to get to sit next to Danielle Zatkos (Corning) and Barry Walton (Corning). Brian Solsbee (TMEPA) came over to check on us and photo
The night wasn’t over yet! Even though the Predators lost we kept our spirits high with a walk down to Paradise Park on Broadway where Brian Solsbee (TMEPA) treated us to beers and some heavy metal and rock music from the garage band up on stage. I think my brain is still vibrating, I bet Susan Sherril (TMEPA) will agree!
Next, we stopped in Derks Bentley’s Whiskey Row where Brian Solsbee (TMEPA), Susan Sherril (TMEPA), Jack Baxter (NES), Travis Reid (TVA), Evann Freeman (EPB) and a handful of others danced the night away on the rooftop bar. We ended the night at Ms. Kelli’s Karaoke Bar where Evann sang my favorite Sinatra song, Luck Be a Lady. He is so talented! Both he and Brian were fantastic dance partners as well!
A client meeting kept me from some of Friday’s presentation lineup, but it looked like another information-packed morning that included:
- JT&S, Operation Safety – Mike Simmons
- TVPPA Report – Kari Crouse
- You Need to know: Updates to TN’s Dig Law – Craig Ingram
- Operational Cybersecurity Challenges – Mark Kenner (KUB)
- TVA Transmission Report – Aaron Melda (TVA)
- Ending with a roundtable discussion and suggestions for the spring meeting
I had a great time getting to know more TMEPA members and learning about the topics that affect their utilities.
I hope everyone had as good a time as I did. Looking forward to the next gathering!