According to Mr. Cartwright, BEC’s in-depth planning for dealing with hurricanes includes consideration of height of storm surge, strength of winds, and best approaches for positioning crews so they can quickly evaluate damage and make repairs. Upon confirming that a hurricane will affect their coverage area, BEC arranges for crews from unaffected states to supplement the BEC workforce. (For Hurricane Irma, crews from Arkansas had hit the road even before the hurricane arrived here.) BEC stages as many staff as possible on Johns Island, or as close as feasible, so they can quickly get to work. However, safety precautions require that they not get started until water has receded and winds have reduced in force. Once the crews can “get eyes on the equipment,” they begin the process of identifying causes of problems and implementing fixes.
Looking to the future, BEC has engineers studying how to improve service during emergencies, for example by relocating some equipment to higher land so it is less susceptible to water damage. BEC and Town representatives will arrange to hold a public presentation of the results of this planning in the coming months.
A Q&A period covered a number of topics, from hurricane protections to the recent delivery issues endured by Berkeley Propane (a for-profit entity somewhat separate from the Cooperative but wholly owned by it). Also discussed were the potential for greater support of solar energy and issues that BEC and other electric cooperatives in the state are facing because of the SCANA-Santee Cooper nuclear power plant problems.
BEC staff closed with a brief demonstration of their SmartHub app—“account management at your fingertips.” [Tidelines will publish some information about SmartHub in a later post.]