Washington Electric Cooperative
Washington Electric Co-op’s system was energized on December 2, 1939, bringing diesel generated power to 150 farms and homes over 55 miles of distribution line. Today, the Cooperative serves over 10,500 members, 97% of whom are residential consumers. Its service area covers 2,728 square miles in parts of 41 towns in north-central Vermont, in the counties of Washington, Orange, Caledonia and Orleans. It operates approximately 1,200 miles of distribution line, with eight substations.
The Cooperative also owns and operates the Wrightsville hydroelectric generating station, which is a store-and-release plant located at the Wrightsville Dam on the North Branch of the Winooski River. The plant has a nominal output of 800 KW, a drainage area of 69 square miles, and a normal operating head of 56 feet.
Washington Electric Cooperative began construction of an electric generating facility with three engines at Vermont’s largest landfill in Coventry in December 2004. By July 1, 2005, the facility was generating full time and a fourth engine was installed in January 2007. On October 7, 2008, WEC members voted to add a fifth engine which began operating on June 17, 2009. The methane generation facility provides about two-thirds of WEC’s members’ electricity needs at affordable, stable and long-term prices .
A nine-member Board of Directors, elected by the members, oversees the $13 million a year operation, and directs its progress.
Washington Electric Cooperative’s mission remains essentially the same today as when it was founded more than sixty years ago: to provide access to electric power and energy-related products and services for area residents and their communities, through a consumer-owned and locally-controlled cooperative business. As part of that mission, WEC is committed to meeting the following responsibilities:
-To educate and advise its members about using energy safely, wisely and economically;
-To keep its member-owners informed about their Co-op and its business, economic, regulatory, political and social environments;
-To minimize the environmental impacts of electric generation and their operations;
-To support and promote their local economy and community organizations.
History of WEC:
How the Washington Electric Co-op Began
One July day Harmon Kelly called on Lorie and Elizabeth Tarshis to suggest their writing to Washington to ask about rural electricity. Raymond Ebbett and Lyle Young met with them. They decided to try to form an REA Co-op. Meetings followed in people’s living rooms.
On July 14th the first public meeting, conducted by Harmon Kelly, was held in the Grange Hall, Maple Corner. It had been hard to get people to come. Meetings had been held before about getting Green Mountain Power and had always ended in disappointment. As Mr. Kelly talked, people became optimistic and began to suggest sources of water power. They even considered the radical idea of a diesel engine. Several strangers sat listening in the dark shadows at the back of the lamp lit hall. One made a long rambling speech against socialistic schemes ending: “And you’ll have to admit I told you.”
They found out who their visitors were when they went to the owners of the best farms and promised them Green Mountain Power within three weeks if they would “give up this nonsense.” Harmon Kelly was told to give it up or lose his job. Neither bribes nor threats worked. On July 29th the REA Co-op was formed with Harmon Kelly, Lyle Young, and Elizabeth Kent Tarshis as incorporators.
My diary for October 7th 1939 reads: “Autumn color splendid. Electricity booming. Stakes set to mark where poles will be.” On October 12th, the first pole was set on the McKnight farm in East Montpelier. I remember it, well braced, standing black against a cold sky with bright leaves whirling in the wind and a man from Washington saying: “You folks don’t know what you’ve started. I wouldn’t be surprised if you had a thousand members some day.” The first hundred looked at each other in disbelief. No one imagined there would be more than three thousand in 1964.
On a May night in 1940, for the first time since the power was turned on, I drove along the County Road. In houses, dark last year or with lamps dimly burning, every window was a blaze of light. There was music everywhere – cows listening to records, housewives to radios. I stopped, found one friend happily running a new vacuum cleaner over an already immaculate rug. I hurried on to my own dark house and turned on every one of their new 100 watt bulbs. The miracle had come.See more