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2023 Energy Trail Tours Hit the Road

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Electricity must be generated at the exact same time as you flip the switch to use it. Angela Catton, Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative Manager of Member Relations and Development and the Energy Trail Tour coordinator, begins each tour by comparing energy use to ordering food at a fast-food restaurant. “You place your order at the kiosk and expect it to be ready the moment you pull up to the drive-through window,” she explains. “You ‘order’ electricity, expecting it to be there. On-time. Every time.” Behind this “simple” ordering process is a complex network of people, power plants, and transmission lines that work around the clock. Their mission: to ensure safe, affordable, reliable electricity is delivered to member homes, farms, and businesses the moment it is needed.

Harrison County Rural Electric Cooperative through its generation and transmission cooperative Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative (NIPCO), is a member of Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s power supply system. Basin Electric has over 7,000 megawatts of generating capacity and 2,500 miles of high-voltage transmission lines - all managed with you, the member-owner, in mind.

This summer, 4 members of HCREC joined members from thirteen other electric cooperatives from western and north central Iowa on a three-day excursion through the Dakotas to learn about where their electricity comes from and have some fun along the journey.

A group of people surrounding a model of a coal generation plant while two others explain the process of coal generation
Lindsey and Erin of Basin Electric explain the process of coal generation at Antelope Valley Station

Harrison County REC encourages members to get the inside story of how electricity is made. “Learning about the big energy picture helps us all make smart choices from our households and businesses to the public policy arena,” CEO, Joe Farley says.

“NIPCO, and its member cooperatives feel it is essential to provide an opportunity for members to get up-close and personal with the source of their electricity,” explains Catton, Manager of Member Relations and Development at NIPCO. “NIPCO purchases approximately 80% of its power supply from Basin Electric Power Cooperative and 20% from Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) which markets power generated from the Missouri River Dam System.” NIPCO’s total blended generation portfolio from these suppliers includes an “all-of-the-above” electric generation mix of coal, water, wind, natural gas, and other sources to ensure reliability and affordability of power supply.”

The trip included stops at the following:


The first electric-generation stop on the three-day journey brought tour guests to Pierre, South Dakota, to understand the process of hydroelectric generation and the innovation of the rolled-earth dam that created Lake Oahe, the fourth largest reservoir in the United States.


The tour included an overview of the model room and a guided walking tour of the power plant. The walking tour included stops at the turbine deck, control room, boiler, and observation deck on the 17th floor.


Tour guests learned how lignite coal is produced at a surface mine and how the land is returned to its original state. A guided drive-through tour took members through active mining areas where they witnessed giant earthmoving equipment in action.

The trip also offered insight into operations at GREAT PLAINS SYNFUELS PLANT and how coal can be refined into natural gas and a variety of other products.

Energy Trail Tour participants also learn about wind generation and renewable energy resources in America’s overall energy mix. The tour provides a “mobile classroom” on the process of wind generation and how a turbine works.

Over three educational and fun-filled days, members gain a deeper understanding of the cooperative difference, the history of rural electric cooperatives, the Seven Cooperative Principles that guide all cooperatives, and the Touchstone Energy® brand’s four foundations of service: Integrity, Accountability, Innovation, and Commitment to Community.

Harrison County REC’s 2023 tour members were Don and Kathy Hekter of Logan, and Jim and Lois Andersen of Woodbine.

Don and Kathy Hekter of Logan
Jim and Lois Andersen of Woodbine

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