Views from the Cab

By David Tollefson, Columnist 

You may have not noticed, but this past April 11, 2022, was Lineworker Appreciation Day.  

We all get electric power from somewhere. In my area my power has always come from Agralite Cooperative in Benson, since the early 1940s. Farmers north and east of my farm toward Starbuck get their electricity from REA (Runestone Electric Association) of Alexandria.

Areas around and in the cities and villages of Pope County generally get their energy from Excel in the Twin Cities.

All electric lines were installed by lineworkers, and the same workers maintain the lines and fix them when there are outages for whatever reason—weather, outages from animals, etc.

In the April newsletter I recently received, the headlines paid tribute to the lineworkers. Here is the information about the lineworkers, most likely written by Agralite Manager Kory Johnson:

You’ve likely noticed Agralite Electric Cooperative’s crew out and about, working on power lines and other electrical equipment in our community. It’s no secret that a lineworker’s job is tough—but it’s a job that’s essential and must be done, often in challenging conditions. This month, as we celebrate Lineworker Appreciation Day on April 11, I thought I’d share some interesting facts about electric lineworkers with you. 

The work can be heavy, in more ways than one. Did you know the equipment and tools while climbing a utility pole can weigh up to 50 pounds– that’s the same as carrying six gallons of water. Speaking of utility poles, lineworkers are required to climb poles ranging anywhere from 30 to 120 feet tall. Needless to say, if you have a fear of heights, this likely isn’t the career path for you.

Lineworkers must be committed to their career—because it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. The long hours and ever-present danger can truly take a toll.  In fact, being a lineworker is listed in the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the U.S.  

Lineworkers often work non-traditional hours and outdoors in difficult conditions. While the job does not require a college degree, it does require technical skills, years of training and hands-on learning. Did you know that to become a journeyman lineworker can take more than 7,000 hours of training (or about four years)? That’s because working with high-voltage equipment requires specialized skills experience and an ongoing mental toughness. Shortcuts are not an option, and there is no room for error in this line of work.

Despite the many challenges, Agralite Electric Cooperative’s lineworkers are committed to powering our local community. During severe weather events that bring major power outages, lineworkers are among the first ones called. They must be ready to leave the comfort of their home and families unexpectedly, and they don’t return until the job is done, often days later. That’s why the lineworker’s family is also dedicated to service. They understand the importance of the job to the community.  

Nationwide, there are approximately 120,000 electric lineworkers. Here at Agralite Electric Cooperative, ten lineworkers are responsible for keeping power flowing 24/7, 365 days a year.

To do this, they maintain approximately 2,500 miles of power lines across four counties. In addition to the highly visible tasks lineworkers perform, their job today goes far beyond climbing utility poles to repair a wire. Today’s lineworkers are information experts who can pinpoint power outages from miles away.

Line crew no use laptops, tablets, drones and other technologies to map outages, survey damage and troubleshoot problems. Being a lineworker may not seem like a glamorous job, but it is absolutely essential to the life of our community.

Without the exceptional dedication and commitment of these hardworking men and women, we simply would note have the reliable electricity that we need for everyday life.

So the next time you see a lineworker, please thank them for the work they do to keep power flowing, regardless of the time of day or weather conditions. After all, the lineworkers are “The Power Behind Your Power.”

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In the same Agralite newsletter, Manager Johnson has some related comments concerning President Biden’s signing last November, a $1 trillion bi-partisan infrastructure package into law. I will summarize some of the features which benefit all of us in the U.S.

“What impact does this have for Agralite and other cooperatives?” NRECA (National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association) secured a number of important wins for electric co-ops in the package. As a result, the new law includes significant investment and funding opportunities for electric co-ops and the communities they serve.

Over 65 billion dollars have been earmarked to help bring high-speed broadband to underserved rural areas of the country. In our area, Federated Telephone Cooperative and Farmers Mutual Telephone have brought high-speed broadband to much of the Agralite service area over the past several years.

The funding package also includes $10 billion for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.  $7.5 billion of these dollars will be allocated to states who will partner with private entities that can include electric cooperatives to implement the charging network.

Grid Modernization and Resiliency is one area that is of particular interest to Agralite. The package includes $5 billion for resiliency grants to supplement existing grid hardening efforts, reduce the risk of power lines causing wildfires and the likelihood/consequences of disruptive weather events. And a key part is that 30 percent is set aside for utilities that sell 4 million MWh or less of electricity per year.  Agralite would fall into this category.  

Johnson sums it all up by saying “As you can see, there will be dollars available through this program for electric cooperatives to take advantage of. Agralite will continue to follow these developments.”

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Please contact David Tollefson with thoughts or comments on this or future columns at: