Rain and clouds relaxed their grip on the Washington, D.C., region long enough recently for NRECA CEO Jim Matheson and a Maryland electric cooperative leader to give Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., a good dose of co-op operations and community involvement.
Led by Joe Slater, president of SMECO, and accompanied by Matheson and Jeffrey Connor, NRECA’s chief operating officer, Van Hollen toured the co-op’s 5.5-megawatt solar energy project located on 33 acres of an old tobacco farm. The 90-minute visit included stops at the co-op’s engineering and operations center and “war room,” where personnel discussed storm restoration logistics. The co-op is headquartered in Hughesville.
Also on the agenda: a safety demonstration in the training yard by SMECO’s lineman rodeo team and a discussion of the co-op’s partnership with the College of Southern Maryland on a pre-apprentice lineworker program.
“Visiting the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative gave me the opportunity to see their innovative operations first-hand,” said Van Hollen after the July 27 tour, his second since taking office in 2017.
“I want to thank their team for showing me an emergency training exercise, taking me to one of their solar farms, and giving me a behind-the-scenes look at the operations center where they control the electrical grid that connects power sources to local homes and businesses.”
The group also discussed “the Senate-passed Farm Bill and how we can continue to work together on solar and renewable energy,” said Van Hollen.
In-person visits can carry a lot of weight of with lawmakers, said Matheson, who said he participated in “hundreds” of site tours as a member of Congress.
“SMECO did a great job planning a visit that allowed both Senator Van Hollen and me to see first-hand the consumer focus and safety culture of the co-op,” said Matheson. “There is no question that the visits are a great form of education.”