NORFOLK, Neb. – Approximately 400 representatives of the electric power industry were at Northeast Community College recently to see the latest technology available in the field.
The Power and Equipment Show featured 77 vendors from 21 states who met with participants and demonstrated state-of-the-industry utility line and power equipment inside and outside of the College’s Chuck M. Pohlman Agriculture Complex in Norfolk.
“The Power and Equipment Show is an event where industry sends personnel - from managers of power districts and cooperatives to linemen – to come and see the latest and greatest safety equipment and products that are out there,” said Larry Oetken, job training safety coordinator at Northeast. “We have manufacturers from all over the United States come and bring their products in to meet with individuals and groups over the day-and-a-half event.”
Many of the attendees came from across Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota to attend the event that has been held for over 30-years. Oetken said the industry is a close-knit community.
“The vendors absolutely support our industry. If I need help for anything, they’re always there financially or just to put on a presentation like what's going on here right now. And it's good to see a lot of former students from Northeast Community College come back, too.”
Of the equipment on display, many featured technologies designed to keep utility line workers safe in the field. Oetken said the technology has changed tremendously over the quarter century the show has been held at Northeast.
“It's all to help for safety but it’s also about ergonomics as well. The technology around safety has changed so much,” he said.
One piece of technology with a safety component that is now commonly used in the electric power industry is drones. They are most critical in storm situations where crews can assess damage from the air rather than try to get to areas that may be inaccessible due to storm damage, muddy roads or heavy snow. Oetken said they use the drones to fly up and over structures to look for any loose hardware and potential problems and then mitigate those issues.
“Cameras also have infrared technology to pick up hotspots like in substations. If there's connectors, you may not see them with the naked eye, but the infrared is going to pick up a hotspot so crews can get in there, fix those problems spots before they do cause an outage.”
The Power and Equipment Show is co-sponsored by the Nebraska Rural Electric Association Suppliers Group, Nebraska Rural Electric Association, League of Nebraska Municipalities, and Northeast Community College.
Proceeds from the event provide scholarships for the Northeast Community College Utility Line program students.