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  • 20 Jul 2023 12:06 PM | Anonymous

    Business Alabama: PowerSouth lights the way from Prattville to the Florida Panhandle

    In the 1960s, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative’s electrical generation was regulated by two clocks: one mechanical, the other electric. The mechanical device displayed perfect time and served as the setpoint for the electric clock. If the electric clock ran fast, operators reduced power generation, slowing it down until its time matched the mechanical device. If the electric unit ran slow, operators increased power generation until both clocks matched.

    Humans watched both clocks, making adjustments accordingly. Today the clocks are mostly for show. The electric grid is managed primarily by computers that monitor and make corrections on a continuous basis.

    “We still have those clocks in a control room,” says Gary Smith, PowerSouth’s president and CEO. “We keep them for demonstrations. They are part of our history.”

    Headquartered in Andalusia, the company was formed in 1941. Its mission then is the same as now — to generate and provide reliable and affordable electricity to its members.

    Today, the company’s 500-plus employees accomplish its goals via 2,100 miles of high-voltage transmission lines running through South Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Andalusia’s electricity powerhouse distributes energy to cooperative and municipal members who serve end-users in 39 Alabama and 10 Florida counties.

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    But the company started with humble beginnings.

    “In the early days, electrification was urban,” adds Smith, who joined PowerSouth in 1989. “In the 1940s, Andalusia, Troy, Evergreen, Opp and other towns had some semblance of electricity, but not much. Power was often produced by in-town generators that ran power to small downtown grids.”

    Smith also notes that in the 1920s the Horseshoe Lumber Company built two dams on the Conecuh River. “It is a small insignificant river, but it was big enough to run two hydro projects to generate power in our area. After the lumber company cut down most of the trees, it sold power to small nearby municipalities.”

    He continues, “Those municipalities became the nexus for the Alabama Electric Cooperative in 1941.”

    Those two dams built by the lumber company, about five miles north of Andalusia, became the catalyst for PowerSouth.

    Back then, the duo of dams produced about 9 megawatts of power. Today the company’s new natural gas combined cycle power plant alone produces 693 megawatts.

    PowerSouth has grown into an electric cooperative serving the wholesale power needs of 20 distribution members, including 16 electric cooperatives and four municipal electric systems in Alabama and Northwest Florida.

    “We are a wholesaler, not a retailer,” notes the company president. “We sell our product to our members who in turn, sell it to their members and customers. We are a true cooperative. We do not have shareholders, like investor-owned utilities. We are owned by the same people/cooperatives we serve.”

    The entities served in Alabama include: Baldwin EMC in Summerdale, Central Alabama Electric Cooperative in Prattville, Clarke-Washington EMC in Jackson, Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative in Talladega, Dixie Electric Cooperative in Montgomery, Pea River Electric Cooperative in Ozark, Pioneer Electric Cooperative in Greenville, South Alabama Electric Cooperative in Troy, Southern Pine Electric Cooperative in Brewton, Tallapoosa River Electric Cooperative in Tallapoosa and Wiregrass Electric Cooperative in Hartford.

    Other Alabama distribution members include Utilities Board of the City of Andalusia, City of Brundidge, Water Works & Electric Board of the City of Elba, and Utilities Board of the City of Opp.

    Florida members are CHELCO in DeFuniak Springs, Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative in Wewahitchka, Escambia River Electric Cooperative in Jay and West Florida Electric Cooperative in Graceville.

    PowerSouth COO Damon Morgan (left), Gary Smith and other employees at Lowman Coal Plant, which is being converted to the natural gas-fired Lowman Energy Center.

    Meeting the power needs of a diverse cooperative group has its challenges. Many of these trials stem from nature, government regulations and, most importantly, fuel costs.

    “When a hurricane threatens, we deploy our line crews to prepare to restore the system,” says Smith. “Linemen are stationed in safe strategic locations that we believe can reach damaged areas in the quickest time.” But he adds, “Hurricanes are of course, always unpredictable, and when the storm strikes, I like to quote Mike Tyson: ‘Everybody has a plan until you get hit in the mouth.’”

    Smith recalls, “The worse storm I have seen was Hurricane Michael (October 2018). We lost 264 high voltage transmission structures. Our areas around Panama City, Florida, and south were completely destroyed.”

    In addition to natural disasters, there are the man-made hurricanes of government regulations. “It is a challenge, building a plant and the government comes in saying, ‘You need to shut this down in 13 years for environmental reasons.’ There is no way we can pay off the investment in that plant. If the plant is taken out of operation our members are left with a stranded investment.”

    Federal regulations are becoming stringent for anything fueled by coal or fossil fuels — from power plants to cars to natural gas stoves. “The only coal generation we have now is our 8% interest in Alabama Power Co.’s Miller Units, near Birmingham,” says Smith. “I hope that plant site is not phased out. It is a very efficient unit. The costs are very good. A lot of investment has been made in environmental controls.”

    Smith notes, “At one time we were completely a coal utility. Now we are almost completely a natural gas utility.” With change comes challenges.

    PowerSouth emphasizes that operations are much more automated now than they were 20 years ago. Systems are more computerized and less labor-intensive. “Not too long ago, when the power failed, we sent a team out to patrol the line until they found the problem,” says Smith. “Today when we have an outage, the electronic systems identify the location of the outage.”

    But he adds, “What really keeps you awake at night is worrying about fuel costs. Last winter natural gas was about $8 to $10 per million BTUs. Today (May 15, 2023) it is just over $2.35 per million BTUS. Last week it was $2.05.

    “With so much variation day by day, trying to balance and manage natural gas costs is troublesome. It makes our costs to members difficult to predict,” Smith says.

    As for the future, PowerSouth is faced with the challenge of building and operating a new electrical generation plant while complying with environmental rules. Some question Power South’s operations.

    “Yes, we run coal plants and we burn fossil fuels,” Smith adds. “But we are trying to save the world in a different way. We are saving the world with affordable and reliable electricity for people who are economically challenged. If we can provide them a better and a more affordable way of life, we have done our job.”

    This article appears in the July 2023 issue of Business Alabama.

  • 7 Jul 2023 6:01 PM | Anonymous

    The University of Alabama envisions being known as the university of choice for the best and brightest students who seek exceptional educational opportunities to advance the intellectual and social condition of the people of the state, the nation and the world. UA provides a premier undergraduate and graduate education that offers a global perspective and is characterized by outstanding teaching, high-quality scholarship and distinctive curricular and co-curricular programs.

    The Capstone International Center (CIC), led by the Associate Provost for International Education and Global Outreach, coordinates programs and opportunities on and off campus that have an international focus. Dr. Teresa E. Wise currently directs the CIC and currently sits on the 2023 JASA Executive Committee. The CIC also offers advising and support for prestigious international scholarships such as the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and Boren Awards to name a few. The CIC fosters partnerships with various universities worldwide and participates in student exchange programs at 29 different universities in 14 countries including Japan. These campuses include Hiroshima University, Kansai Gaidai University, Meiji University, Ritsumeikan University and Chiba University which has been a partner for over 25 years.

    Dr. Wise and fellow CIC staff, Sonya Harwood-Johnson and Ruzanna Yolyan, pose for a photo with international students and fellow volunteers on United Way’s Day of Action. The CIC provides opportunities for international students and scholars to interact with the community in a positive light.

    Many international students at UA also participate in the accreditedIntensive English Program coordinated by CIC’s English Language Institute (ELI). The institute provides top quality instruction to non-native speakers of English while providing students with orientation to U.S. culture. ELI enrolls approximately 75 students per session from 16 different countries mostly from Japan, China, Colombia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Some students participate in customized group programs such as Chiba University’s English + Nursing Program where students attend English language sessions with a focus on medical terminology and observe UA nursing classes, attend clinical immersion and tour local medical facilities. Serving as a “Gateway to UA”, the specialized Intensive English Program provides an opportunity for international students to matriculate into UA degree programs at both undergraduate and graduate degree levels. The ELI plays a major role in international student recruitment at UA.

    In the Fall of 2022, the CIC’s International Student & Scholar Services served 1,118 active, enrolled international students, including 246 new international students from 88 countries, territories and regions. Of the 246 new international students, there were 188 first-time and internal transfer graduate students, 50 first-time freshmen, and eight first-time undergraduate transfer students. The university is also currently sponsoring 175 recent graduates who are working on Optional Practical Training (OPT). UA also employs 277 non-immigrant scholars, faculty and staff representing 44 countries and territories.

    While UA welcomed many international students last year, the CIC’s Education Abroad (EA) program sent 1,115 students to more than 55 countries to participate in over 235 unique programs internationally in 2022. After a pause from in-person programs worldwide, the EA office saw a heightened demand for studying abroad as the world emerged from the pandemic. When international borders opened once more, 40% of the students who participated in an EA program had never been abroad before and 36 students travelled on a Gilman Scholarship Award.

    The CIC provides many opportunities for cultural exchange on and off campus through the Global and Cultural Perspectives Minor, Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL), and community outreach. In 2018, UA received an American Council on Education grant to initiate COIL activities with a partner institution in Japan, Chiba University, with support from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. This partnership allows the Chiba nursing students to collaborate online with UA students prior to their arrival for the English + Nursing Program.

    Kansai Gaidai and UA students excited to eat Japanese curry and get to know one another at the Japanese themed Multicultural Coffee Hour last spring.

    In 1987, the CIC held Tuscaloosa’s first Annual Sakura Festival in collaboration with Tuscaloosa’s Sister Cities International and has continued the tradition each spring to engage the local community with Japanese culture. This year, Consul General Mio Maeda gave a speech to the community and students from UA and Kansai Gaidai University held demonstrations and matsuri games for the all ages. The CIC supports international groups and events such as the weekly Multi-Cultural Coffee Hour that invites all international and domestic students, scholars, faculty and staff to enjoy a culturally themed snack over great conversation with new and old friends from around the world. In an effort to internationalize the campus and community, the CIC coordinates these programs and opportunities with a worldwide focus.

    Consul General Maeda speaks to everyone at the beginning of the 37th Annual Sakura Festival.

    Kansai Gaidai students demonstrate the Morning Taiso Stretch routine at the 37th Annual Sakura Festival.

  • 22 Jun 2023 10:36 AM | Anonymous

    Mazda Toyota Manufacturing has awarded its second round of grant funding totaling $150,000 to 12 nonprofits. Grantees also took a tour of the Huntsville manufacturing facility.

    “MTM is grateful to the organizations that support our community, and our MTM Grant Fund is one way that we can show that commitment to North Alabama,” said Mark Brazeal, vice president of administration at MTM.

    The 2023 MTM Grant Fund received more than 80 applications. Of those, the following 12 nonprofits received funding this round: Huntsville Hospital Foundation, Family Services Center, NCAC, Heals Inc., KTECH/Kids to Love, ELM Foundation, Girls Inc., Kid One Transport, The Care Center, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Still Serving Veterans and Cap & Gown Project.

    The Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville hosts MTM’s fund on its platform and is integral in facilitating MTM’s corporate grantmaking.

    MTM will launch a third round of funding later this year. Interested applicants can visit the Community Foundation’s website or follow MTM on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn for the announcement of the third round.

    Read the article by Business Alabama

  • 9 Jun 2023 1:56 PM | Anonymous

    2023-2024 Japanese Language Grants by The Japan Foundation, Los Angeles (JFLA)

    Grant for Nationwide/Statewide/Region-wide Events for Learners

    Japanese Language Learners Event Grant

    (Examples: Speech Contest, Quiz Contest, Japan-themed Festival for Learners, etc.)

    Deadlines: September 1, 2023

    More info


    Grant for Nationwide/Statewide/Region-wide Projects for Teachers

    Japanese-Language Education Project Grant

    (Examples: Conferences/Seminars/Workshops for Teachers, Teaching Material Development, Research Projects, etc.)

    Deadline: 2 months before the project start date

    More info


    Grants for Individual Japanese Language Programs

    Japanese Teaching Material Purchase Grant

    Deadlines: September 15, 2023

    More info


    Advocacy Support Letter

    If your Japanese language program is in danger of being cut due to COVID-19, we will send a support letter to stakeholders (Superintendent, Principal, Dean, etc.).

    Please contact JFLA for details.

  • 1 May 2023 1:53 PM | Anonymous

    The $16 million, 66,000-square-foot Post-Production Option facility will house a program that outfits the automaker’s light-truck lineup with features designed to add extra performance and function, including bronze alloy wheels, fender flares, roof rails, cargo nets and trailer hitches.

    The PPO program began in late 2020 with the installation of accessory packages for the redesigned 2021 Ridgeline pickup.

    On Tuesday, community leaders joined company officials to cut the ribbon on the new PPO facility, which will allow Honda to expand the program to include accessory packages for the redesigned 2023 Pilot SUV and meet increased demand for customization of light truck models.

    Honda also plans to eventually offer installation of single-item accessories to dealers.

    “Our customer-focused Honda accessories program represents an incredible effort by our highly engaged team of associates who believed in this new business area and had the drive to make it succeed,” said Susan McCormick, department head of accessory product planning at American Honda Motor Co.

    “The new PPO facility at our Alabama Auto Plant will enable us to better serve our Honda customers and provide them with the high-quality options they desire.”

    Read the whole article by Made in Alabama from here.

  • 6 Apr 2023 1:51 PM | Anonymous

    A $49 million, 168-acre solar project for Toyota in Huntsville now includes a power purchase agreement.

    Huntsville Utilities, Toyota Alabama and Toyota Tsusho America announced the agreement at an event today in Huntsville.

    The plan includes a 30-megawatt solar-generated system in the North Huntsville Industrial Park, near the Toyota engine plant. The system is expected to generate 62,000 megawatt hours annually, enough to power more than 5,600 homes.

    “Toyota is taking a transparent, science-based approach to address climate change,” said Jason Puckett, president of Toyota Alabama. “By relying on the sun to power our operations, we will reduce our carbon footprint and create a model of environmental stewardship in North Alabama.”

    Tsusho led the project’s development and will manage construction, which is scheduled to begin this spring. Tsusho will be the owner of the solar facility, which is scheduled to begin generating solar energy in the summer of 2024.

    By Business Alabama

  • 1 Apr 2023 1:50 PM | Anonymous

    Mark your calendar for May 5, 2023, from 6:30 to 9 pm CDT. The Daikin Festival is back and moving to Point Mallard Park!

    Each year in May, beginning in 1994, Daikin America, Inc. employees produced a Japanese Festival in the style of Bon Odori for their North Alabama neighbors. Every year, that is, until the pandemic made it impossible in 2020.

    Now, at long last, the festival returns, offering even more fun for the entire family.

    The Daikin Festival delights attendees with live music, Japanese Folk Dancing, Shodo (Japanese calligraphy), Yakisoba (grilled buckwheat noodles with beef and special sauce), BBQ, hamburgers, refreshing drinks, and special prizes.

    This year, the festival will conclude with a dramatic fireworks display by PYRO Shows.

    Best of all, the entire event is free of charge, including food, drink, and entertainment, and is open to the public.

    We look forward to the return of one of the largest Japanese cultural events in the Southeast US.

    Read more:

  • 11 Mar 2023 9:30 AM | Anonymous

    A free financial seminar held by Satoko Tsutsumi from Financial Planning and Education service on 3/11 (at Birmingham) and 3/12 (at Huntsville).

    Ms. Satoko is an expert in financial planning in the USA and in Japan. We will learn about the general information about financial planning including benefits of saving and investing early for your retirement, social security benefits, Medicare, etc.

    The seminar will be conducted in Japanese.

  • 7 Mar 2023 3:24 PM | Anonymous

    Milton Davis, JASA Board member, and past JASA Board chairperson, was recently inducted into the State of Alabama’s Engineering Hall of Fame (AEHOF). The Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame was founded in 1987 by proclamation of the Governor. AEHOF honors, preserves, and perpetuates the outstanding accomplishments and contributions of individuals, projects, and corporations/institutions that have brought and continue to bring significant recognition to the State.

    Milton is a champion in the field of engineering and in Alabama. He is one of the top performing business development managers in his industry with more than 40 years of progressively challenging experiences. He is vice president of economic development for Clayco, a full-service, turnkey real estate development, master planning, architecture, engineering, procurement, and construction firm. Throughout his career, Davis has received several honors and awards including UA Centennial Fellow Chemical and Biological Engineering in 2010, 2012 UA Distinguished Engineering Fellow, and was selected as Engineer of the Year in 1996 by the National Society of Black Engineers. His service to engineering education and the State includes several boards and leadership positions such as past chairman of the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees, chair of the Capstone Engineering Society, and co-chair of the Economic Development Committee of Manufacture Alabama, active member of the Economic Development Association of Alabama, and JASA. As a member of the Alabama Community College System, Davis is at the forefront of examining and approving measures that ensure the success of residents, businesses, and industry at Alabama’s 24 community and technical colleges. He has promoted Alabama and helped in the recruitment of numerous manufacturing projects to the State.

    Learn more about the Engineering Hall of Fame.

  • 1 Feb 2023 6:58 PM | Anonymous

    "We occupy a unique space in the United States ecosystem. We have a very long history with international companies and a unique relationship with the Japanese and the European space agencies. We work in the aerospace side, the automotive side, and the genomic research side."

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