July 2022 Light Reading

Light Reading July 2022

Download July 2022 Light Reading (PDF)

Calling All Amateur Photographers!

Annual Members’ Calendar Submissions Now Open

Calendar July 2022

See this gorgeous photo of fireweed (a native wildflower in our area)? Last year, member Emily Hall entered this photo into your Co-op’s Annual Member Photo Calendar contest. Her photo was chosen to represent July. It appears in the calendar, on our Facebook page as this month’s header photo, and in this July edition of Light Reading, too. Next year, this could be your photo! 

Photo submissions for the 2023 Annual Members’ Calendar open July 1. Submissions will be considered through August 31. Winners will be notified in late September. The calendar will be printed and available for members in November. 

Photos submitted should depict wildlife, scenery, people, activities or anything that represents our unique lifestyle and special corner of Northwest Montana. To enter, you must be a member of the Co-op and an amateur photographer. Members selected to be featured in the calendar will receive $25 and their name will be used wherever the Co-op uses their photo. Submit your photo today!


Hydropower is the Foundation for Wind, Solar

In the depths of a Montana winter, when the sun doesn’t often shine on the Flathead Valley, it can be hard to accept that we can’t change the weather. During Montana’s sun-drenched, 16 hours-of-daylight summers, when we’re happily floating down our backyard rivers, it can be just as easy to forget the lack of winter sun in our area.

Weather gives us constant conversation over coffee and cocktails, but it doesn’t offer much else in the way of constancy. We can’t make the sun shine or the wind blow. Our inability to control solar and wind is why they’re called “intermittent renewables” – they produce power intermittently, not constantly. They’re renewable because they are energy sources that are not depleted when used – we can’t “run out” of sunlight or wind in the way that we can oil, gas, and coal.

Hydroelectric dams can generate power when the sun’s not shining and the wind’s not blowing. Hydro is the perfect foundation to enable more renewable generation projects to be brought online.

Because wind and solar produce power intermittently, not constantly, it is challenging to add them to our electrical grid. This is because managing electricity is not a ballpark type of science – there must be exactly the right amount of power on the system at the exact moment that it is needed for the grid to stay balanced, avoiding brownouts and blackouts. Predictability is an important part of managing electricity, and a huge part of what your Co-op and its power suppliers do.

In contrast, baseload generators produce power constantly, providing the predictability critical to a balanced grid, and allowing intermittent generators to come online. Baseload generation sources are coal, nuclear, and hydro. However, as our world looks towards a carbon-free future, many utilities are taking carbon-laden baseload generation, such as coal, offline. Our area does not currently have nuclear power, but Northwest Montana’s neighborliness with a major national park, an enormous wilderness area, and the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River make siting both coal and nuclear challenging, to say the least.

That leaves hydro. It is carbon-free and renewable, like solar and wind, but can provide the baseload generation critical to a reliable grid. When water is stored behind a hydroelectric dam (such as the Hungry Horse, Libby, and lower Snake River dams) it acts like a giant battery for the grid. If the sun doesn’t shine (a nightly occurrence) and the wind doesn’t blow (hard to predict in northwestern Montana), water can be released from dams to create electricity in the absence of generation by intermittent renewables.

That’s why your Co-op calls hydropower the backbone of our carbon-free future. In Northwest Montana, about 80% of our electricity already comes from renewable, carbon-free hydropower (and our full fuel mix is 97% carbon-free)! The availability of all this reliable, affordable hydro means we can add other carbon-free, but intermittent, renewables like wind and solar, to the grid, and power will still be available when we need it. Your Co-op is grateful to be in the Columbia River Basin, where we turn the lights on and the water runs through hydroelectric dams, emitting no carbon and supporting solar, wind, and other zero-carbon sources of electricity.

“Managing electricity is not a ballpark type of science – there must be exactly the right amount of power on the system at the exact moment that it is needed for the grid to stay balanced, avoiding brownouts and blackouts.”


[Infographic] Hydroelectricity is the “unicorn” of electric generation.

Hydropower Infographic Baseload Generation Ven Diagram
Hydropower Infographic Batteries
Hydropower Infographic Dams are like batteries


Co-op Trustees Elect New Officers

After the Co-op’s 2022 election results were certified, your Board of Trustees elected new officers:

  • Gary Boe (District 7, Kalispell, south of Highway 2), President
  • Stacey Schnebel (District 1, Columbia Falls – Essex), Vice-President
  • Jerry Bygren (District 8 – Bigfork), Secretary-Treasurer

Learn more about the Trustees who help to guide the operations of your not-for-profit, member-owned, democratically governed electric cooperative.

FEC Board of Trustees 2021
FEC Board of Trustees 2021


It’s Ribeye Raffle Time! Two lucky winners will fill their freezer with premium local 4-H/FFA beef.

Ribeye Raffle

Each summer, your Co-op purchases stock from the 4-H and Future Farmers of America’s Market Project. Most of the meat goes to local food banks – except for the steaks, which are raffled off! 

Now in its 7th year, Ribeye Raffle has raised $17,246 in cash and donated approximately 1,720 pounds of meat for area food banks. Winners take home approximately 60, one-inch-thick, steaks – valued at over $500 per winner! Tickets are available now — $1 each or $5 for six. Purchase tickets online or in-person at the Kalispell or Libby Co-op offices (cash or check only).


Roundup Report Columbia Falls Swim Team

Roundup for Safety Improves Community Water Safety

The Roundup for Safety Board recently considered a pair of water-based community safety requests. 

In her grant application, Columbia Falls Swim Team board member Jana Montiel explained that although there is a competition aspect that keeps kids motivated, the focus of the program is to develop proficient swimmers.  

“We are surrounded by beautiful, fast, deep water in the Flathead valley, and it is the Team’s mission to help local kids learn to actually swim proficiently, not just dog paddle to the side of the pool. Research shows that kids who can swim 400 yards continuously have exponentially less chance of ever drowning,” Montiel told the Board.  

The Swim Team requested tools such as leg buoys and flippers to assist children in learning proper swim strokes, along with an AED. About 100 kids hailing from communities across the Flathead Valley are expected to participate in this summer’s program. The Roundup for Safety Board awarded $4,500. 

The Good Grief Group requested life jacket funding. The Group supports grieving children in many ways throughout the year, including hosting a summer camp. The camp is staffed with professionals and trained volunteers to help grieving children find comfort, support, and the resources to move forward. The camp, now in its 9th year, is held on Middle Thompson Lake, prompting the request for life jacket funding. The Board awarded $1,500.  

Other Projects Funded

  • Samaritan House Safety cameras $10,000
  • Friends of Historic Hotel Libby Roofing $2,000
  • Columbia Falls High School Baseball  Baseball safety equipment $8,100

Roundup for Safety Celebrating 25 Years in 2022

Since 1997, you’ve rounded up your pennies for community safety in a big way!

Lifetime Project Funding


2022 Project Funding


Figures current through May 31, 2022. 

RoundUp for Safety Flathead Electric Cooperative

ROUNDUP FOR SAFETY is a voluntary program for Co-op members who round up their electric bills to the next dollar. This money is managed by an independent board and goes into a fund for community safety projects.