March 19, 2018
Partner Spotlight: Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative
Virginia Energy Sense interviewed Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) Senior Communications Specialist Priscilla Knight to discuss how her organization is playing a role in encouraging energy efficiency and environmental stewardship.
What is your role in the organization, and how long has NOVEC been a VES partner?
As senior communications specialist, I work with the media – write news releases, the annual report, brochures, articles, etc; work with legislators; work on corporate citizenship through NOVEC HELPS; and do presentations. My biggest job is working as the editor/writer of NOVEC pages in Cooperative Living magazine, which goes to more people in Virginia than any other magazine.
Please provide a short summary of what NOVEC is and the work it does.
NOVEC, headquartered in Manassas, Virginia, is a not-for-profit corporation that provides electricity to more than 167,500 metered customers in Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford, and Clarke counties, the City of Manassas Park, and the Town of Clifton. The utility is the largest electric co-op in Virginia and one of the largest electric cooperatives among 900 in the United States. For more information, visit www.novec.com.
How is NOVEC helping the Commonwealth meet its goal of reducing energy consumption?
NOVEC has practiced environmental stewardship for more than four decades. Its efforts in recent years include: distributing electricity from the Co-op’s Halifax County Biomass plant and other renewable-energy facilities; recycling products and materials; practicing energy conservation in all offices and centers; using ecologically safe herbicides in its right-of-way corridors; and helping members use energy wisely.
To supply customers with more renewable energy, NOVEC built its first-ever power plant – the NOVEC Energy Production Halifax County Biomass Plant. The Co-op opened the plant near South Boston, Virginia, in 2013. The plant has the capacity to generate roughly 50 megawatts of power at gross or 45 megawatts at net – enough electricity to power about 16,000 homes.
NOVEC distributes 100 percent of the renewable energy produced by five generators at the Prince William County Landfill. The generators use gas from decaying trash as fuel for creating 6.7 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 5,000 homes, a school-bus garage, and an animal shelter.
NOVEC distributes 190 kilowatts of solar energy from the Fauquier County Livestock Exchange. In addition, NOVEC has assisted customers interested in interconnecting their home’s solar systems to the grid through net metering since 2003. By the end of 2016, NOVEC had supplied 155 net meters.
In early 2017, NOVEC Solutions, an affiliate for-profit NOVEC company, joined forces with ProspectSolar to help provide solar photovoltaic systems to interested customers.
In October 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded a $5 million matching “smart-grid” grant for NOVEC’s Electric Distribution System Automation Program. The grant helped the Co-op replace older, technologically obsolete equipment with digital-based equipment.
In addition to improving reliability, the new technology reduces electricity losses in the distribution system and helps NOVEC system operators reduce voltage remotely to decrease power use on the hottest and coldest days when demand soars. According to former Senior Vice President Jim Moxley, “The new smart-grid technology is contributing to a cleaner environment.”
To reduce energy consumption and costs at NOVEC’s offices and centers, the Co-op has converted almost 200 fluorescent office light fixtures to motion-sensor-controlled LED lighting in the last few years. This year, NOVEC is replacing parking lot and outdoor security fixtures with LEDs, which use about 65 percent less energy than fluorescent fixtures. As an added benefit, they provide better lighting quality, last far longer, and reduce replacement costs.
NOVEC reduces waste in landfills by recycling metal parts, cable reels, paper, and other products. It reuses oil for space heating. It shreds hazardous tree branches in right-of-way corridors into mulch for customers’ gardens.
What are some ways in which your organization has encouraged environmental stewardship?
We encourage customers and the public to bring their cut Christmas trees to our Gainesville office after the holidays. Our tree crews chopped them into mulch. We also offer free wood cable reels, sent to us with power cables. It’s surprising how many people want them for furniture. By recycling trees and reels, less waste goes into landfills.
NOVEC’s energy specialists work closely with customers to help them conserve energy and reduce their bills. Customers interested in talking to a specialist can call customer service at 703-335-0500 or 1-888-335-0500.
The Co-op’s Cooperative Living magazine, What’s Current bill insert, eWhat’s Current emails, brochures, and social-media messages offer energy-saving tips. NOVEC’s Home Resource Center at www.novec.com/save lets a customer receive an online home-energy analysis customized for his or her home and lifestyle. It also provides a wealth of energy information. In addition, the suite’s Billing Insights calculator helps explain each customer’s bill based on weather data and the number of days in the billing cycle – factors that affect power consumption and costs.