‘We Try to Be Overprepared’: Co-ops Make Plans for the April 8 Eclipse

Bandera Electric Cooperative employees show off the BEC Fiber-branded solar eclipse glasses that the co-op distributed to members in advance of the April 8 event. (Photo Courtesy: Bandera Electric Cooperative)

Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association has been through this before.

The headquarters of the Murphysboro, Illinois, cooperative is just a few miles from what’s become known as the “solar crossroads,” the intersection of the paths of totality of both the 2017 and 2024 solar eclipses.

That is why the cooperative, like dozens of others located along the track of the April 8 eclipse, is taking steps to deal with a massive influx of solar enthusiasts who want a choice place to witness the rare event.

The message from co-ops: Enjoy yourself, but we’re ready just in case.

“We’re more prepared than 2017,” said Brooke Guthman, member services manager at Egyptian Electric, where the total eclipse will linger for four minutes and nine seconds. “The amount of outgoing traffic last time was not anticipated. So we are working to make sure we are more prepared for this year’s eclipse.”

All told, 115 distribution co-ops will experience totality in at least some part of their territory as the eclipse—the first in the Lower 48 states since Aug. 12, 2017—passes from Texas to Maine. Among those co-ops, 47 will see their entire service territory darkened and 12 will lose daylight over 90 to 99 percent of their coverage area.

The U.S. produces about three times as much solar energy as it did in 2017. So planners are paying special attention to the eclipse’s impact on the grid, knowing other energy resources will have to make up for the loss of solar power. However, grid operators across the country are confident that power supplies will be stable.

Likewise, generation and transmission co-ops have been planning for the event and do not foresee adverse circumstances on power production.

“Given the temperate weather and market outlook, we do not anticipate any issues and are approaching the day as we would any other,” said Vicki Duncan Gardner, vice president of marketing and communications at Wabash Valley Power Alliance, a G&T located in the popular viewing spot of Indianapolis. “The main thing we are hearing is about people working from home to avoid anticipated traffic and beating any runs on solar eclipse glasses.”

The eclipse already has altered life at distribution cooperatives and in communities where schools and offices are closed. Co-ops are working with emergency personnel to expect the unexpected.

The Murphysboro public school system will be closed, Guthman said, and Egyptian Electric will follow by closing at noon and routing calls to the Cooperative Response Center. Employees and their families are invited to view the eclipse at 2 p.m. and then go home to minimize traffic. The co-op’s maintenance lineworkers have take-home trucks, and Egyptian Electric will be staging them to handle issues or outages that arise.

The Texas Hill Country in the southern and central part of the state expects tens of thousands of visitors, especially from areas such as San Antonio that are only briefly in the path of the eclipse.

Bandera Electric Cooperative has been taking a proactive approach as officials from local government, emergency management units and the co-op have met regularly for more than a year to prepare, said Charity Huber, manager of marketing and communications.

“Some of the territories that we serve, particularly in Bandera County, do not have a lot of emergency resources. So they’re depending on us to help spread information in advance of the eclipse, ensuring that residents are well-prepared due to the anticipated influx of eclipse viewers to our area,” Huber said.

The Bandera, Texas-based co-op has been posting tips and information on social media and has an eclipse preparedness guide on its website. It has handed out eclipse glasses with the logo of its broadband subsidiary, BEC Fiber, to members, schools and nursing homes.

Bandera EC offices will be closed on April 8, and the co-op has made sure that no bills are due that day so members do not have to stress about battling traffic to pay in person.

“You have to walk a fine line, because you don’t want to cause alarm, but you also want to get out the word that it’s a good idea to have a full tank of gas or to fill your prescriptions,” Huber said.

Like Bandera, other co-ops are taking advantage of the branding opportunity by distributing free eclipse glasses to members.

Several electric cooperatives see safety and branding value in distributing viewing glasses to member so they can watch solar eclipses, as Central Texas Electric Cooperative has done. (Photo Courtesy: Central Texas Electric Cooperative)

Last October, parts of Texas experienced a partial eclipse. Central Texas Electric Cooperative handed out safe solar viewing glasses with the co-op logo and date. The glasses are popular again this time around, said Patricia Stehling, communications coordinator for the Fredericksburg, Texas-based co-op.

“It’s like a little keepsake,” she said. “I wasn’t sure how well it would go over, but we ended up having to order more, because we ran out of our first batch.”

Central Texas Electric has been meeting regularly to discuss just about every scenario, since its territory is another prime viewing location. The co-op will close its headquarters and consider sending lineworkers home with their trucks so that they can respond more quickly to an incident.

The co-op also will have security at the home office in case some sightseer decides to block the lot with an oversized vehicle.

“It’s kind of hard, because there is not really a precedent for it here, so we try to be overprepared and hopefully we don’t need much of it,” Stehling said.

Madeline Sievers, communications coordinator at WIN Energy REMC in Vincennes, Indiana, says officials are estimating 100,000 will visit the state to watch the eclipse, with a heavy concentration in Vincennes and surrounding areas.

“Our office will be closed but we will be on standby for that day as needed,” said Sievers, adding that WIN Energy also will be sending lineworkers home with their trucks. Crews will be able to leave straight from their homes to respond to outages and service calls instead of coming to the office first.

“We’ve been advised as employees to get gas and food ahead of time because we don’t know how crazy it’s going to be in the days leading up to the eclipse or right after,” she said.

Sikeston, Missouri-based SEMO Electric Cooperative will refrain from road work during a one-hour eclipse window, said CEO Sean J. Vanslyke. The co-op’s territory will be 100% in the path of the eclipse, and numerous online guides point to an area north of Sikeston, near Cape Girardeau, as one of the country’s most popular viewing locales.

“We anticipate a significant influx of solar eclipse enthusiasts and foresee vehicles parking in various locations during totality, which will last just under four minutes,” Vanslyke said. “Our area is certainly enthusiastic about the event, as campgrounds and hotels are booked solid. Most importantly, we hope for a safe event that people will enjoy.”

The co-ops listed below are set to see 100% of their service territories in the path of totality for next week’s eclipse, according to NRECA data. You can also view the full list of co-ops in the path of totality and the percentage of their service territory within that path.








Steven Johnson is a contributing writer for NRECA.