Every pole starts with a plan. So do substations, transformers and just about every essential piece of the infrastructure Baldwin EMC relies on to deliver power to its members.
The people responsible for those plans make up the co-op’s Engineering department. Their job, in a very tight nutshell, is to design, oversee implementation, and help maintain Baldwin EMC’s power grid. While line crews handle the physical aspect, this team oversees the development and design.
There aren’t many areas of Baldwin EMC’s operations that this team of 19 doesn’t touch. Everything from analyzing system load, to determining locations for new electrical services, to evaluating and justifying new substations falls into their hands.
If you’ve ever purchased land or built a home in an area without existing electrical service, chances are one of the engineering department’s staking technicians guided you through that process. They specialize in determining locations or “staking” poles, lines and transformers in ways that are cost-conscious and efficient for the co-op and its members. Currently, seven staking technicians serve Baldwin EMC’s 1500-square mile service area.
Working closely with them are the cooperative’s team of electrical engineers, who are integral to the ongoing development of Baldwin EMC’s distribution infrastructure. Anything from designing lines, to drawing work orders for new services, to calculating loads and determining what equipment to use and when upgrades are needed can be all in a day’s work.
Rounding out the department are Baldwin EMC’s engineering technician and assistants, construction coordinator, real estate easement agent and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data technician. Each play a vital role in making sure that Baldwin EMC’s complex system of meters, lines, poles, transformers, and other equipment is maintaining the reliability that the co-op’s members depend on.
Lately, much of the engineering department’s team focus has been on ensuring Baldwin EMC’s ability to handle the high rate of growth our area has been experiencing. In just two years, the co-op has added almost 6,000 accounts, as Baldwin County’s population swells to more than 223,000. As population grows, so does its demand for power, which can place strain on the existing electric distribution system. Baldwin EMC’s engineering team makes sure the co-op stays one step ahead, ensuring reliable electricity is readily available for members.
Due to swift growth in Baldwin County, the co-op’s engineering department has also frequently been called upon by local government agencies, like the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), to collaborate on projects to accommodate the population boom. For example, in early 2021, ALDOT and Baldwin EMC’s engineers worked with line crews to have power lines and poles moved to allow for the widening of County Road 8 in Gulf Shores, which will ease traffic strain in the area.
It was 69 years ago that Baldwin EMC first established its engineering department, which initially consisted of just one person. Fast forward to 2021, and that department has grown almost 20-fold, becoming one of the most vital to the success of the rapidly growing cooperative.