Facts About Electricity
Have you ever wondered why birds and squirrels don’t get zapped by electricity when they sit on electrical wires? It’s because they are not touching the ground, or in other words, they’re not grounded. It helps to understand the nature of electricity. Electricity is always trying to reach the ground and if an electrical conductor, such as a power line, provides the path, electricity will follow it.
When a bird lands on one wire, the bird’s legs and the wire are equally charged, in other words, they are at the same voltage level or “potential.” Most birds do not get electrocuted because they are at the same potential as the lines they are sitting on and therefore do not create a current flow. The same is true of squirrels when they land on the wire.
The voltage level or potential changes when a bird or squirrel touches a part of the structure going to ground. Suddenly, part of the animal will be charged and the other part won’t. In that case, a bird or squirrel would get electrocuted, just as a person would.
Lightning is a consistent and significant weather hazard that may affect sports teams and other groups while they’re enjoying the outdoors. In Colorado, most lightning fatalities occur in June, July and August, when more people are outdoors and thunderstorms are more prevalent. Within the U.S., the National Severe Storms Laboratory estimates that 100 fatalities and 400-500 injuries requiring medical treatment occur from lightning strikes each year. While the probability of being struck by lightning is extremely low, the odds are significantly greater when a storm is in the area and the proper safety precautions are not followed.
As someone in charge of outdoor activities or as a parent with children involved in outdoor activities, it is important to help educate yourself and others about the dangers of lightning so that injuries and fatalities can be prevented. Education begins with background information on lightning. Prevention should begin long before any outdoor activities take place. The following steps are helpful to mitigate lightning hazards.
Monitor the weather
Designate a chain of command as to who monitors threatening weather and who makes the decision to remove people from an outdoor activity. An emergency plan should include planned instructions for participants as well as spectators. Those who are monitoring the weather should obtain a weather report each day an activity is planned. Be aware of potential thunderstorms that may form during an event.
Also, be aware of National Weather Service-issued thunderstorm watches and warnings, as well as signs of thunderstorms developing nearby. A watch means conditions are favorable for severe weather to develop. A warning means that severe weather has been reported in an area.
Know your location
Lightning often strikes tall, large objects. If you’re outside, get away from high ground and don’t stand under tall trees or poles. Make yourself as small as possible, but don’t lie flat on the ground. The best thing to do is to squat low to the ground, put your hands on your knees with your head between them.
Know where the closest safe structure or location is in relation to the field or area of the activity. Know how long it takes to get there. A safe structure or location is any building normally occupied or frequently used by people. A building with plumbing or electrical wiring that acts to electrically ground the structure is ideal. If such a building isn’t nearby, a vehicle with a hard metal roof and rolled-up windows — not a convertible or a golf cart — can provide a measure of safety. While in the vehicle, do not touch the sides of the car, which is the path that electricity would follow if it struck the vehicle.
Understand the flash-to-bang method
Be aware of how close lightning actually is. The flash-to-bang method is the easiest and most convenient way to estimate how far away lightning is occurring. Thunder always accompanies lightning, even though its audible range can be diminished due to background noise and its distance from the observer. To use the flash-to-bang method, count the seconds from the time the lightning is seen to when the clap of thunder is heard. Divide this number by five to determine how many miles away the lightning is occurring.
Follow National Severe Storms Laboratory guidelines
Electricity and Kites
One of the greatest pastimes for kids of all ages is flying kites each spring. While we want kids of all ages to enjoy this sport, we also want them to be careful not to get their kites tangled up in power lines.
Every year in this country, children are electrocuted when their kite strings come in contact with a power line. Even though kite string is not a conductor of electricity, it can easily become contaminated with dirt and sweat, which will conduct the electrical current down the kite string. Electricity is always trying to find the shortest path to ground. It is not picky as to what path it uses.
If that path is a kite string with conducting properties and a child, it doesn’t care. It will follow that path until the path is broken We cannot emphasize enough the danger involved with flying kites near power lines. Instruct your children not to fly their kites close to any power line. Find a park or a wide-open area to fly kites. If a kite or kite string does come in contact with a power line, turn loose of the string.
A person’s life is much more valuable than any kite. If the kite or string becomes tangled in the power line, don’t try and get it out. Call your co-op, and linemen will be glad to come and extricate it from the power line. Kites and power lines just don’t mix.
Call Before You Dig
Don’t Get Zapped By Electricity
Electricity provides the energy to turn on the lights, power a television and keep food cold in the refrigerator. But, if not used properly, electricity can be very dangerous.
Electricity travels, or is conducted, through wires to electrical outlets in your home. Wrapped around the wires is rubber, plastic or other insulating materials which protect or insulate us from the electricity. But, if this protection is broken and electricity touches you, you could be zapped by an electrical shock or be burned.
Around the house there are many ways in which electricity can hurt you if it is not used the right way. You should never put anything into an outlet except an electrical plug, and if a power cord is broken and you can see the wires inside, the cord should not be used. Also, if your hands are wet or you are standing in water you should never plug in or touch anything that uses electricity. Water is good conductor of electricity.
There are dangers outside, too. If you come across a power line that has fallen to the ground, call for help and stay far away from it. Remember, too, that you should never climb electric poles or towers. And did you know that if you climbed a tree that is touching a power line or raise a stick or pole to touch an electrical line, you could get zapped?
Your local electric cooperative provides a powerful tool you use every day –electricity. Use it safely
Electricity, when used properly, is a safe and convenient form of energy, but when used improperly, electricity can cause fires, shocks, injuries, and even death. The following safety tips will help you avoid electrical accidents.
Throughout the U.S., there is an increased demand to further develop sustainable and renewable clean energy sources such as solar power and wind energy to promote Green Power programs. Mountain View Electric Association, with offices in Limon and Falcon, started offering Green Power in 2000 at the cost of $2.50 per 100-kilowatt-hour block. Today, the cost is only 10 cents per 100 kWh block (in addition to the member’s base rate).
Co-op members who choose to participate in MVEA’s Green Power program are purchasing renewable energy credits, known as RECs, which are either purchased on the open market or from Tri-State Generation and Transmission’s own REC portfolio. Tri-State, MVEA’s power supplier, is dedicated to developing renewable sources of energy and incorporating them into its resource planning. Its commitment to ongoing development ensures Green Power is readily available to electric cooperative members.
Tri-State’s renewable energy projects in Colorado include wind farms, small solar farms and small hydropower projects. When members sign-up to participate in MVEA’s Green Power program, they are not only helping to fund these projects but also the creation and expansion of future renewable energy projects for future generations. Members who purchase RECs through MVEA’s Green Power program know that their money is going to support the continued development of renewable energy resources.
For the average residential consumer that uses 1,000 kilo-watt hours per month, opting in to MVEA’s Green Power program would be an additional investment of only $1 a month. For those wanting to contribute more or less, 100-kWh blocks may be purchased for 10 cents each.
Solar energy, generated from locally-based solar panels will soon be powering the homes of United Power members.
Silicon Ranch will own and operate the facility and United Power will buy and distribute the electricity over a 20-year period.In late 2014, Brighton-based United Power initiated an effort to incorporate cost-effective local renewable energy sources to complement the power it purchased from its power supplier. To help meet its renewable energy goals, United Power partnered with Silicon Ranch Corporation, one of the nation’s leading developers, owners and operators of solar energy facilities. Through that partnership, the local electric cooperative will buy the electricity generation by the 13-megawatt solar farm 3 miles east of downtown Fort Lupton.
“United Power’s staff worked diligently to acquire this project and to set the power purchase agreement into place for Silicon Ranch,” said Ron Asche, United Power CEO. “We are excited that all the production from this project will be used right on our own distribution system and will power nearby homes and businesses. United Power is a strong supporter of renewable energy, and this system will enhance our commitment of these resources.”
Once completed this spring, the 130-acre solar farm will generate 34.2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year from approximately 160,000 solar panels – enough to power 2,500 households.
Construction of Intermountain Rural Electric Association’s 15.9-megawatt utility-scale solar farm in Adams County is underway, with the help of juwi’s U.S. subsidiary, which is based in Boulder. The location of the new solar park is near the electric cooperative’s Victory substation. It will deliver solar energy through the power purchase agreement between IREA and juwi.
“The construction of a utility scale solar project at a location adjacent to our existing infrastructure allows us to obtain renewable energy at a competitive price,” Josh Liss, IREA’s public and regulatory affairs director, said in a juwi press release. “It’s a win-win for the association and our members.”
The Victory Solar project will help IREA achieve compliance with Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard. This solar project, once complete, will be the third utility-scale array in Colorado built and operated by juwi. The Victory Solar project is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2016.
Yampa Valley Electric Association, with offices in Craig and Steamboat, is one of five electric co-ops that has partnered with GRID Alternatives Colorado and the Colorado Energy Office to develop a community solar array that will be 100 percent dedicated to lower income YVEA members. Members participating in this program will receive a bill offset from the energy produced by their portion of a community solar array.
GRID Alternatives Colorado is a nonprofit organization that makes renewable energy technology and job training accessible to under served communities. GRID brings together community partners, volunteers and job trainees to implement solar power for lower-income households, providing energy cost savings, hands-on installation experience and a source of clean, local energy that benefits everyone.
An analysis from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory suggests that “between 50 percent and 75 percent of households and just over 50 percent of businesses are unsuitable to host photovoltaic systems on their roofs because of shade, orientation, structural factors or ownership issues.” In community solar gardens, participants get the benefits of energy from the sun as if the solar system was on their roof, but their solar panels are located offsite away from their home in a larger, shared community array.
With the GRID project, YVEA is choosing to experiment with owning, operating and maintaining the garden, unlike the co-op’s Clean Energy Collective Array in Craig which was built and managed by the developer of the solar garden. GRID will help YVEA build the new solar garden and support it over time.
To qualify for this program, participants must pay their own electric bill to Yampa Valley Electric and their total household income must be at, or below, 80 percent of the area median income of their county.