Neighbor helping neighbor
Here in upstate South Carolina, electric distribution lines hadn’t been extended into rural areas to any extent until the mid 1930’s. How we got from there to where Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative is today entails quite a story.
According to the latest statistics at my disposal, Blue Ridge has about 7,100 miles of installed power lines serving more than 66,000 members. As you might imagine, those 120,000 or so poles and the associated wires, crossarms, and other hardware constitute a huge investment. This vast infrastructure network also represents untold hours of work performed by multitudes of line-construction crews down through the years.
A history built around cooperation
However, the praiseworthy labors that went into the development of the Blue Ridge system don’t paint the entire picture. More than anything else, our history is built around cooperation. It goes without saying that cooperation would be foundational to any cooperative-type organization.
In that spirit of cooperation, co-op members are sometimes called upon to defer to the needs of their fellow members. As a result, they’re also contributing to their utility’s overall success. Essentially, it’s always been a process of neighbor helping neighbor.
The manner in which this principle most often comes to the surface is in the granting of right-of-way easements. An individual, a business, a church, or some other entity may depend upon the cooperation of nearby property owners. Those folks’ permission could be required before a power-line extension can be built to provide electric service to the prospective new member.
At Blue Ridge, we have some right-of-way easement documents on file that are more than 80 years old. Furthermore, our engineering department employees transport dozens of newly executed easements each month to be recorded at local county courthouses. Oftentimes, these easements were signed by landowners assenting for an electric-line portion to be constructed across their property in order for their neighbor to receive power.
On rare occasions, the cooperative has encountered persons who refuse to allow the needed new line section to be erected on his or her real estate. In those situations, we try to deal with matters as best we can. Alternatives usually compel us to find a different takeoff point for the new facilities that’s also a greater distance from the new-service location. That, of course, would involve additional expense—an expense that would ultimately be borne by all Blue Ridge ratepayers.
There’s one reality that every cooperative member should keep in mind. Somebody or somebodies had, in the past, consented for a line to be constructed across their lands so that electric service could eventually reach that particular member. If those 7,100 miles of power lines could talk, they could give witness to thousands of instances where neighbor interceded for neighbor in that way.
President and CEO