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DEMEC looks to create in-state training ground

Katie Tabeling
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The Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation is working to create the first in-state lineworker training yard in Smryna Industrial Park off Walton Way. The training yard should be open come spring 2022. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DEMEC

SMYRNA — The Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation (DEMEC) is establishing its first in-state training yard for eight municipalities to train apprentice lineworkers in best practices and servicing unique systems.

DEMEC bought 5 acres of land next to ShureLine Electrical in the Smyrna Industrial Park in April. With a target opening of spring 2022, the wholesale power supplier is planning to install a series of utility poles, transformers and substation infrastructure on site to host classes for its membership.

Lineworkers are typically sent to out-of-state programs that may last up to two weeks for training that is required for the field. Delaware has no facility of its own to send lineworkers, and DEMEC has three utility poles behind its Smyrna headquarters for small training sessions. This new facility will open up more possibilities for larger classes.

DEMEC has three utility poles outside its headquarters in Smyrna for small training classes. With the new facility, the agency will be able to keep training in-state and at a lower cost. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DEMEC

“In-state training will allow for greater member participation and cost savings. Additionally, it keeps lineworkers closer to home should services be required at a moment’s notice,” DEMEC Chief Operating Officer Kimberly Schlichting said. “Best practices and safety training for lineworkers is never-ending and is paramount for this line of work. They cannot afford to become complicit.”

Site improvements will include utility poles for climbing and bucket truck use, shorter poles for group demonstrations, meter panels, an underground training area, a substation training area as well as a sidewalk and a parking lot. DEMEC is seeking used or new donations from town utility departments as well as outside organizations.

The rising training yard and program will be open to DEMEC members’ apprentice lineworker (levels 1 to 4), journey lineworkers, foremen and others. Outdoor hands-on training may range between 10 to 20 students, but apprentice training classes are expected to be small for a stronger instructor-to-student ratio.

“It really comes down to the needs of our members at any point in time,” said Schlichting, who will become DEMEC CEO in October.

Established in 1978, DEMEC is a joint action agency that represents eight power-producing Delaware towns and cities that serve 99,200 people. Members include Clayton, Dover, Lewes, Middletown, Newark, New Castle, Seaford and Smyrna.

The agency’s peak load is 301 megawatts, supported by solar plants across the state, a Pennsylvanian wind farm, a natural gas facility in Ohio and its own generation station in Smyrna.

DEMEC’s training yard will give lineworkers more hands-on exercises, specifically in each Delaware town’s own distribution systems. Utility managers from DEMEC-associated towns each weighed in on the future training yard to ensure the tools available will help meet town-specific standards.

“Our members can change the specifications as needed to meet their own specific standards or changing industry requirements and regulations,” Schlichting told the Delaware Business Times.

The training yard will also help lineworkers prepare for “mutual aid events,” typically natural disasters that require more lineworkers to bring an electric grid back up working. Since the site will be geared to eight different town’s eclectic needs, it will help lineworkers respond even faster during a blackout.

DEMEC officials see the training yard as a long-term investment, and if the program grows larger, then the hope would be to relocate to another site but keep the property for other uses.

“It’s conveniently located and provides convenient access to our members which span from the northern to southern municipalities in Delaware,” Schlichting said. “As technology continues to advance and change, so will best practices change. This program will allow our members to stay on top of those changes and even ahead of anticipated innovative practices.”

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