April 07, 2002 11:00 pm


By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

After three years on the Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative board of directors, Gary Potter is ready for another term.

I enjoy it. Ive learned a lot, and Im still learning, said the electrical inspector who lives in Cove. My only agenda is to keep the co-op working and keep the rates down when we can.

Potter doesnt expect wholesale rates from the Bonneville Power Administration to stay down, however, and he looks for another increase next fall. OTEC raised its rates 30 percent in October but last month announced a 2 percent rate reduction based on BPA wholesale costs.

Potter predicted that drought conditions in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, where precipitation in the Snake River Basin is at 58 percent of normal, will continue to affect hydroelectric power in Northeast Oregon.

Although Potter supports small plants generating wind energy where the wind is favorable, he does not envision the power cooperative depending upon wind at any time in the future.

Its something we need to work on, he said about the prospect of wind-powered generation. Wind will generate part of the time, but wind is not reliable.

Potter said that OTEC has no choice but to rely on hydropower.

He does, however, see a future with the innovative fuel cells, now in research and early stages of production, and he would like to see biomass plants that use wood waste to generate electricity.

He said he thinks OTEC should be involved with alternative power sources in all the ways we can.

The cost of OTEC power has been partly affected by a wood-burning cogeneration plant in Prairie City, and Potter said the courts have ruled that OTEC must pay the amount billed by the Prairie City company.

Weve taken it all the way to the (Oregon) Supreme Court, and weve lost every time, he said about OTECs efforts to have the cogeneration prices reduced.

The cooperative receives 10 percent of its power from the Prairie City plant while paying the cogeneration plant 40 percent of OTECs combined electric bill, he said. When the contract expires in 2005, OTEC consumers could see a reduction in their power bills, he said. OTEC pays three wholesalers for power: BPA, a cogeneration plant in Cove and the Prairie City plant.

Potters company, Electrical Inspections Inc., contracts with the cities of La Grande and Baker City for inspections. Before he moved to Union County in 1987, he worked as a lineman in the Portland area.

He ran for the board three years ago because as a former lineman, I thought I could add something.

Potter lives with his wife Laura near Cove. She owns an indoor horse arena and she trains horses as well as giving riding lessons. The couple have three grown daughters and five grandchildren.

Potter said he has completed a series of classes offered by the National Rural Electric Cooperative. Completion of the classes has given him certification as a board member.

His service on the board has taken between 20 and 30 hours a month, he said.

You work around it, he said. It has taken a lot more time than I thought it would.


By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Norm Cimon looks to the future of power generation and sees the wind.

The La Grande resident, who is challenging Gary Potter for a seat on the Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative board of directors, believes the cooperative should encourage landowners who want to install windmills to generate power for individual use.

He also sees the future in terms of biomass generating plants and innovative fuel cells, a means of delivering power in the future but now in the research stage.

OTEC has a role in renewable power. It should encourage local generation of power, Cimon said.

The computer systems analyst said there is much potential for various kinds of power generation, including biomass plants, such as one now planned for the Baum Industrial Park. Biomass plants use waste wood to generate energy.

OTEC needs to be a player in biomass, he said.

Cimon wrote in his position statement: Wind generators, solar installation, micro-turbines and fuel cells will produce electricity at many dispersed locations and feed excess capacity onto the grid on demand, making regional power robust and flexible.

In Cimons view, OTECs role will be to contract with customers for excess power generated by individual resources such as windmills, encouraging consumers to generate power and become part of the local generation.

He said he would like to see OTEC develop a couple of small pilot projects in a joint effort with people who generate enough power to get on the grid.

He said large wind generating endeavors, such as the 400 windmills being built along the Oregon-Washington border west of Walla Walla, offer promise for future energy generation.

Cimon said he expects the Bonneville Power Administration to raise rates again in the near future because of contracts the public agency signed during the energy shortage.

They went to the open market and bid for power, he said. Theyre buying power at twice the market rate all for stability.

At the national level, Cimon would like to see greater subsidies for power generating projects that do not use fossil fuels.

It is crucial for us to turn from subsidies for fossil fuels and look to the future, he said. Theres tax relief for fossil fuels; some are exempt from air emission standards.

Cimon said other types of energy generation, such as wind and the new fuel cells, should receive the same types of federal breaks.

During his 22 years in La Grande, Cimon has been employed by the U.S. Forest Service at the Pacific Northwest Experimental Station. He is a founding member of Union County Court Appointed Special Advocates or CASA, Oregon Rural Action, and he belongs to the IEEE Computer Society/IEEE Communications Society. He holds a bachelors degree in mathematics from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Cimons wife, Shelley, has been a member for many years of the Hanford Advisory Board and the Oregon Hanford Waste Board.

The couple have two sons.

, Jamie, 25, and Jesse, 13.