The Superior Express -

S.C. Public Power District observing 75th anniversary


September 9, 2021

The majority of Nuckolls County residents do not remember what life was like without electricity but 75 years ago the South Central Public Power District was being organized to provide electrical energy to the rural areas. While electrical power was earlier provided in communities, it did not come to much of the rural areas until the Rural Electrification Administration was organized. President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 7037 on May 11, 1935, to create the administration.

The movement to provide electricity in the rural area gained ground rapidly but was slowed by the advent of World War II.

The Rural Electrification Act of 1936 provided federal loans for the installation of electrical distribution systems to serve isolated rural areas of the United States.

The funding was directed through cooperative electrical power companies, of which South Central Public Power District is one.

In the 1930s, the provision of power to remote areas was not thought to be economically feasible. The 2,300 volt distribution system then being used in cities could be carried only about 4 miles before the voltage drop became unacceptable. The REA cooperatives used a 7,200 volt distribution network which could support longer runs. However the higher voltage system required more expensive transformers.

In the early days, a standard REA installation at a rural farm home included a 60 amp, 230 volt fuse panel with a 60 amp range circuit, a 20 amp kitchen circuit and two or three 15 amp lighting circuits.

A ceiling-mounted light fixture was installed in each room, usually controlled by a single switch mounted near a door. At most one outlet was installed per room since plug-connected appliances were expensive and uncommon. Wiring was performed using type NM cable insulated with asbestos-reinforced rubber covered with jute and tar.

The South Central Public Power District is one of 31 rural electric utilities headquartered in Nebraska. The first meeting to discuss the possibility of organizing a rural electric cooperative for Webster and Nuckolls counties was held in Red Cloud on Jan. 10, 1945. With the inclusion of Clay County, it was decided the office would be in Nelson.

On April 28, 1949, South Central Membership Association (as the cooperative was first known) line was energized. John L. Scroggin of Oak, the association president, closed a switch to turn on the electric power at the Blue Hill substation.

Between 1961 and 1968 electrical loads doubled. The loads doubled again between 1968 and 1988.

Many system changes were required to handle the increasing load. South Central was an early innovator in irrigation load management in an effort to control costs and offer lower rates.

To celebrate the 75th anniversary, South Central will host an open house at the Nelson City Auditorium and the district office on Sunday, Sept. 12, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.


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