The Power of Zenergy: Innovation and Service
Since 1950, West Central Telephone Association (WCTA) in Sebeka, Minnesota has been a pioneer by bringing telephone, Internet, and a variety of other high-quality products and services to an area over 600 square miles. Now WCTA is looking to the future with the creation of Zenergy—a provider of renewable energy products and services.
In the early 1990s, WCTA broke ground by introducing the region to cutting-edge technology. The range of new products included cellular phones, satellite TV, broadband Internet and recently, fiber optics to the home (FTTH) and digital Internet television (IPTV). With an emphasis on customer service, WCTA became the first telephone cooperative to establish a full-time Internet help-desk, an in-house training department, and a communications department.
Where did Zenergy come from?
WCTA began its search for a wind and solar powered system that could provide remote backup power to telephone system nodes. They realized there were no ready-made solutions that could sufficiently or reliably provide the necessary backup power, so WCTA decided to build its own system. The goal was to develop a simple, cost-effective remote power system with the highest quality products and with the best performance rating. Along the way, WCTA realized that residents in the service area would benefit greatly from this search for dependable, affordable, and convenient renewable energy.
Pamela Mahling of WCTA supervised preliminary research, arranged employee training and collaborated with a trusted crew of industry experts. Among the experts were Jerry Lilyerd (founder of Sun Energy) and John Alexander (president of Measure-Tech/Solar Energy Technologies).With the addition of Master electrician Clint Kyllonen, a solar energy system installer, the WCTA team started conducting their own solar and wind testing.
During the extensive trial period, WCTA tested different hardware, configurations and performance in various weather conditions with a goal to build a backup system that would provide power when the grid was down. Critical monitoring software that measured energy in real time was also integrated. This research was positively enhanced when WCTA was chosen as a 2008 recipient of the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Fund in recognition of its innovative wind and solar research. While developing the new power system, WCTA discovered a demand for renewable energy in the area—both residentially and commercially. However, there was no one to deliver these services, or offer people information and guidance throughout the process.
To meet a growing demand for renewable energy, WCTA launched Zenergy, which continues a tradition of dedicated service and innovation. Zenergy applies directly to WCTA's philosophy of always thinking of the next generation. In recognition of WCTA's outstanding effort to make a difference in reducing carbon emissions, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar presented the telecommunications company the Carbon Buster Award of Excellence. The WCTA team was honored to be recognized as a leader in providing clean, renewable energy.