Monthly Archives: September 2015


Community Solar is Coming

By | 2017-12-27T15:03:21+00:00 September 15th, 2015|News|

VALLEY Solar VertRavalli Electric Co-op is pleased to announce that plans to move forward with its proposed 88-unit community solar project were solidified last month.  The Co-op was notified in August that it was selected to receive a Rural Energy America Program (REAP) Grant from the USDA to offset the cost of construction.

REC members will now have the opportunity to participate in the program by purchasing the output from a single solar panel. The electricity generated by the solar array will then be credited back to participating members on an annual basis for 25 years (the anticipated life of the panel).

There are several benefits to a community solar program over installing panels at home, with the most obvious being cost. Consumers can often participate in community solar programs for less than $1,000, whereas a home system can cost 20 to 30 times more to install. Other factors including aesthetics and low sunlight conditions can also make installing panels at home less than ideal.

Community solar projects are becoming popular with many electric cooperatives throughout the country as member interest in alternative energy sources continues to grow. REC found this trend to be consistent locally as well when a survey earlier this year found nearly 30% of respondents in favor of community solar.

REC also understands the majority of members are sensitive to the potential for fee increases. That’s why the program is designed in such a way that construction will be paid for in full by grant funding and those members who choose to participate in it. As of now, members will be eligible to purchase the output from a single solar panel in the 88 panel array only if they do not currently have a solar system installed at their home. Members may be permitted to purchase additional panel output at a later time.

A single panel is expected to generate +/- 350 kWh per year, depending on sunlight and panel performance. That’s enough to power an EnergySTAR refrigerator/freezer for an entire year.

The Ravalli Electric Co-op community solar project will be constructed in a high-sun area along Highway 93 adjacent to the Woodside Substation in Victor. To learn more about the project and to reserve your panel output, visit or call 961-3001 to speak with Member Services.

Power Blinks and Trees

By | 2017-12-27T15:03:21+00:00 September 15th, 2015|News|

One of the most beautiful features of the Bitterroot Valley are the countless trees that line our streets, surround our homes and fill our forests. But while trees are an enormous benefit to our scenery, they can wreak havoc on our power supply.

In the summer especially, you might notice times when your lights flash off and on, often referred to as “blinks.” This happens when a foreign object, like a falling tree branch, touches a power line.

If you are noticing blinks more frequently, it may be because trees near your home have gotten overgrown. When tree branches begin growing into the power lines or getting close enough to touch them when the wind blows, this is referred to as trees “burning” in the line. You can usually tell this is happening because trees will turn brown where they come into contact with the power lines and the lines will often turn black.

Here are some measures you can take to ensure trees around your home are not interfering with your power and those around you:


  • Tree Planting
    Plant trees a safe distance from power lines. Remember, trees grow out as well as up. Prevent future problems for yourself by making good planting decisions now. If your only option is to plant near power lines, stick with bushes and small trees that won’t grow any higher than 10-15′ when fully mature. It’s much better to plan ahead now than to be forced to cut down trees once they begin to mature
  • Look Up
    If you are noticing power blinks, always report the problem to us right away. Then, take a look around your home for a tree that might be causing the issue. If you are able point our REC linemen in the right direction, they will be able to get your power restored that much more quickly. NEVER attempt to trim trees near power lines yourself.
  • Plan Ahead
    If you can clearly see trees that will soon become a problem, don’t hesitate to let us know. We like to be able to address issues ahead of time if at all possible.

We understand that our members love their trees (we do too), and we will do everything we can to avoid cutting them down whenever possible, but sometimes it is unavoidable.

Hydro-electric Dams and their Effects on Salmon

By | 2017-01-05T19:08:51+00:00 September 15th, 2015|News|

Recently, I received a letter from a member that attended our Annual Meeting requesting an article on the effects of the Columbia and lower Snake River Dams on the salmon runs in the Northwest in addition to generating electricity.  Salmon in the Pacific Northwest have always faced challenges to survive.  As far back as the mid-1800s, salmon faced issues of over fishing, mining and loss of habitat.

The 1930s brought expanding urban growth and the construction of the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.  They too contributed to reduction in salmon numbers and loss of habitat that pushed their stock toward extinction.  These same dams helped bring the Pacific Northwest and the nation out of the Great Depression, electrify and power the rural communities of the four state regions while providing power to help the United States win World War II, irrigation for farming and recreation opportunities as well.  During these times the salmon faced hard times.

Eighty years later things are changing and there are more salmon in the Columbia River now than when the Bonneville dam was built in 1938 on the lower Columbia.  Salmon runs are trending upward due to increased hatchery production and harvest restrictions on wild salmon populations.  2014 saw salmon return to the Columbia River in the highest numbers in 75 years.

Fall runs of salmon and steelhead totaled 2.3 million.  These numbers exceeded the past record set in 2011, when 2.1 million Chinook, sockeye, steelhead and Coho salmon returned.  In ten years salmon return rates have almost doubled.  Good ocean conditions are a primary reason but changes in dam operations, new technologies that were and continue to be installed help salmon pass the dams, improvements in hatchery practices, and habitat restoration efforts are helping too.  These changes are part of the nation’s largest and most expensive wildlife restoration project.  Funded in part by the members of REC and the citizens of the Northwest!

Since 1978, REC members and utility rate payers across the Northwest have contributed over $14 billion through their electric bills to increase salmon runs.  These increases could not have been reached with out the collaboration of federal, state, tribal and other river users.  All have helped ensure the safe passage of salmon past the dams on their way downriver to the ocean and on their return journey.

Survival rates are averaging approximately 97% for juvenile salmon migrating past the eight dams on the Columbia and Snake River.  Over the last ten years the dramatic increases in fish returns is demonstrating the health of the fish runs.  Between 2002 and 2011 wild Chinook salmon populations have more than tripled while the average wild steelhead populations have doubled!!

The numbers are impressive and being a REC member it’s rewarding to know that money from you electric bill has helped this remarkable success story unfold.