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Fall 2009

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Bailey County Electric Cooperative Powering West Texas Communities

T H E M A G A Z I N E F O R M A N U FA C T U R I N G E X E C U T I V E S


Bailey County Electric Cooperative

Powering West Texas Communities Written by Mark Fitzgerald In 1939, just over a year after it was established as a selfservice utility, Bailey County Electric Cooperative energized 249 miles of line in rural Texas. Since then, the co-op has grown and expanded to 2,800 miles of line serving about 1,800 members in Bailey, Castro, Cochran, Lamb and Parmer Counties.

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leaps and bounds in the last two to four years,” adds the CEO, noting that BCEC has over 10,000 services in place and many of its members have multiple meters.

“We’re primarily an irrigation co-op,” says BCEC CEO David Marricle. About 70 percent of its distribution load supports agriculture, especially dairy farms. Up in the western portion of the Texas panhandle, the co-op also serves rural communities who grow cotton, corn, grain, wheat, alfalfa and marjoram.

Keys to Success Marricle attributes much of the co-op’s success in recent years to a marketing campaign and a partnership with an economic development corporation in town. “We started a big push on getting dairies to come onboard about 15 years ago,” he says. “This has really paid off and has been a tremendous boost to dairy farm expansion in this part of the country.”

Based in Muleshoe, Texas, BCEC has 40 employees and average annual revenue of $20 million. “We’ve grown by

During the campaign, BCEC staff went to farming tradeshows in California to entice farmers to buy land in Texas. “We told

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them they could sell their land out in California by the foot and come out here and buy it by the acre,” says Marricle. “Those that came really like it out here because it’s so wide open. So far it’s really been a win-win situation with both the dairy and the co-operative.” Another initiative that’s contributed to BCEC’s success has been its membership with the Golden Spread Electric Cooperative, a tax-exempt, consumer-owned public utility that was organized in 1984 to provide low cost, reliable electric service for its rural distribution co-operative members. “We’re one of 16 co-ops at Golden Spread,” notes Marricle. “We joined to be able to better plan for our needs, and this partnership has really proven valuable to us. In the last 20

years we’ve grown to such an extent that we now have five generating plants.” BCEC supplies base-load needs, the portion of the electrical demand that is present at all times, from the most efficient, lowest-cost generating resources to units burning natural gas or coal. Other resources are blended during higher load periods to minimize cost and emissions. Wind Energy “We’re looking to expand our assets and invest in wind generation and other environmental friendly resources,” says Marricle. “But we know this won’t be a silver bullet solution.”

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While advantageous, the intermittent nature of windgenerated energy creates considerable operating challenges for utilities because maintaining reliable service on the grid requires that generation output match electric load at all times. Any change in load must be matched by a corresponding change in generation output. “Intermittent renewable resources such as wind-generated energy are not dispatchable,” recognizes Marricle. The CEO points out that the availability of wind, not the need for power, determines how much energy is produced. Indeed, the energy supplied by wind and the energy required by load can vary from moment to moment for reasons beyond the control of the utility. Because of this,

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“We’re looking to expand our assets and invest in wind generation and other environmental friendly resources” ~David Marricle


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dispatchable energy producing resources, like natural gasfired or coal-fired generation, must be available to quickly adjust power production levels upward or downward to maintain the balance of generation output and load. “We’re all for green energy,” Marricle says, “but just make it affordable.” Although he says he worries that the tax implications associated with green legislation might be out of tune with the demands of electric co-ops in rural Texas, he is optimistic about BCEC’s future growth. “We felt the effects of gas prices last year, but now gas prices have gone down,” he says. “All in all, we’re showing strong growth and we expect that growth to continue for the foreseeable future.”

COMPANY AT A GLANCE Established : 1938 BCEC Members : 20 CEO : David Marricle

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Bailey County Electric Cooperative

P. O . D r a w e r 1 0 1 3 3 0 5 E . A v e . B Muleshoe Texas 79347 U n i t e d S tat e s w w w . b c e c o o p . c o m www.usexecutivejournal.com Winter 2009

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