CDE Lightband and TVA were founded on a mission to serve — through reliable and affordable energy, a safe and protected environment and thriving economic development.
CDE Lightband provides electricity to more than 76,000 households and businesses in the City of Clarksville, Tennessee. They cover 100 square miles within the municipal boundaries, which includes 2,885 miles of overhead and underground primary power lines.
TVA STEM Grants and Educational Partnerships
Many Clarksville educators bring Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) enrichment to their schools as a result of winning TVA STEM grants. “To be able to sustain growth, we need to cultivate our upcoming generations. STEM encourages curiosity, knowledge and development of young minds in real world settings. We are proud to support our schools’ STEM programs for the future of tomorrow,” Brian Taylor, general manager of CDE Lightband said.
In 2001, CDE Lightband, TVA and Bicentennial Volunteers Inc. awarded Kenwood Middle School a $5,000 STEM grant for equipment, replacement parts and curriculum used to teach students how to program drones and robotics with computer coding. Chad Ward, computer literacy teacher said, “We’re using drones to introduce block coding and written code. Students learn problem solving as they go through the engineering design process. They’re constantly re-evaluating their code to improve how their drones fly.” Ward also said learning computer programming and coding skills can prepare students to succeed in higher education and professions in technology.
One student shared how he enjoyed overcoming the challenge. “When I first started to code the drone it was hard for me. It was aggravating at first, but then I started to like it. I didn’t know how to do it, so I had to keep on trying–then I succeeded.” Another student said, “The best part is trying to figure out the movement. It’s really fun to figure out the angle that you need to move (the drone).”
Across town, students at Richview Middle School are also becoming code wizards through a technology class offering as well as a robotics club. Several teachers won TVA STEM grants in 2022 along with funds from Clarksville-Montgomery County Education Foundation and Google Data center to purchase 11 SPIKE™ Prime kits to operate robots using Scratch programming. The equipment will be used to support career readiness learning.
“This is the same type of code they would use in the future,” sixth grade science teacher Anne Stritzel said, adding, “It’s allowing students to understand across platforms. The skills they learn here are ever-evolving. So even if something changes, they have the foundation And the (new) interface supports problem-solving better. It helps them learn fundamentals faster than before within the engineering design process.”
This huge funding opportunity makes it possible for more students to learn robotics after school as well as in the classroom. Christina Ploeckelman, seventh grade science teacher and Robotics Club advisor said, “A three-person team can use each robot. It is very much group-oriented and student-driven. In the curriculum, we provide how to start. Then the students figure out what to change, how to modify, and develop a design.”
As a participant in the Partner in Education (PIE) program, CDE Lightband is a partner with Kenwood High and CMCSS STEM schools. PIE is operated by Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, Clarksville-Montgomery County Education Foundation and Clarksville Area Chamber of Commerce. They provide partner schools with career day discussions, donation drives, teacher externships and electric demonstrations with a focus on STEM.
“We are committed to helping teachers make concrete connections to standards taught in the classroom and helping students explore potential career paths. Educating the public about electrical operations and safety is crucial to what we do, which is why our partnerships with Clarksville-Montgomery County schools is so important,” Lindsey Pease, CDE Lightband community affairs coordinator said.
Since 2012, CDE Lightband has hosted a Teacher Extern Program with K-12 STEM teachers. “Externships are a unique and sustainable way to help students and teachers alike gain a deeper understanding of STEM concepts and apply that understanding in both the classroom and real world experiences,” Pease said. Externships with CDE Lightband have given educators the tools to lead student projects as intense as creating a substation with a 3D printer and as simple easy as using math to read meters.
Power Partners Website and Awards
CDE Lightband is active in the education of customers, too. In fact, in 2020 they earned the title of EnergyRight Innovator of the Year for creating Power Partners, a program that includes a website with information about energy usage in Clarksville as well as tips for reducing electric bills. Customers who sign up to be a Power Partner will receive periodic texts from energy advisors where they can learn how to improve their own home energy efficiency as well as find out about the latest developments in electric vehicle planning, renewables and other green energy topics.
Energy Services manager John Jackson said, “We wanted to create a one-stop shop for energy efficiency resources and information about TVA programs, renewables and EVs. We’re pretty proud that over 650 people have signed up already.”
TVA EnergyRight also recognized CDE Lightband as a Top Performer for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. “CDE Lightband provides the staffing, promotion and resources to ensure that customers are aware of and can participate in energy efficiency measures to save on electric bills,” Cindy Herron, vice president of TVA EnergyRight said.
When social distancing became a necessity, CDE Lightband showed dedication and agility as their energy advisors continued to conduct Home Energy Evaluations. They simply shifted audits to the virtual realm, using a mobile device to guide the customers through the process.
They were also active participants in the New Homes program, which provides incentives to builders to implement electricity as a house’s primary energy source. “Our Energy Services department remains a leader in energy research, development of new programs and education of customers. I’m really excited for the direction CDE Lightband is going and happy to see these efforts being recognized,” Taylor said.
Excellence in Public Power Communications Awards
The American Public Power Association honored CDE Lightband’s Business Development team’s marketing efforts with three Excellence in Public Power Communications awards, one each in the categories print/digital, video, and web/social media. “While we are accustomed to being known for our reliability in electric and broadband services, it’s also wonderful to be recognized for the strides we take to use informational data and transforming it to showcase our talent in an industry that is learning to adapt to new platforms to communicate with our customers,” Taylor said.
COVID-19 Community Care Fund and Matching Donations
In 2020, the TVA Community Care Fund matched up to $25,000 raised by CDE Lightband employees, Google and Clarksville community members for the United Way of Greater Clarksville Region. In total, the efforts raised $54,948, which helped customers financially affected by the pandemic pay their electric bills.
In a second round of funding, in 2021 CDE Lightband matched TVA’s COVID-19 Community Care Fund donations to provide $30,000 to the Salvation Army and $30,000 to The Imagination Library of Montgomery County.
“The Salvation Army of Clarksville is so blessed to have such a generous community relationship with CDE Lightband. This generosity will ensure the continuation of assistance for many lives affected by hardships caused by the COVID pandemic. We are so grateful,” says Captain Jonathan Whitaker, commanding officer with The Salvation Army.
“With these matching funds, we will be able to share the love of reading and improve early childhood reading readiness by sending out books to our 8,500 enrollees for three months. The Imagination Library of Montgomery County will also be able to continue to enroll new children and increase our reach throughout the city and county,” Karen Morrow, co-chair of The Imagination Library of Montgomery County said.
In 2022, CDE Lightband matched TVA’s COVID-19 Community Care Fund donations to provide $10,000 to Clarksville Crime Stoppers for anonymous information that leads to the arrest of persons responsible for cold case homicides. Also, CDE Lightband partnered with Clarksville Parks and Recreation to establish a park in North Clarksville, adding recreational and social opportunities to the neighborhood.
“Our commitment to give back to the community remains a priority especially during these times. Partnering with TVA has helped us supported these organizations in achieving their mission as they help ease the unprecedented burdens on those we serve,” Taylor said.
Smart Energy Provider Designations
APPA also named CDE Lightband a Smart Energy Provider (SEP) in 2021, an honor that lasts for two years. “Utilities that earn the SEP designations are going the extra mile beyond providing electricity for their communities. This designation celebrates utilities that are committed to serving their customers with leading smart energy programs and energy services. These communities should be proud that their utilities are focused on providing excellent service while planning for the future,” Matt Hein, energy services manager of Cedar Falls Utilities in Cedar Falls, Iowa and chair of the Energy Innovation Committee said.
Taylor said, “This SEP designation represents our dedication to offering programs that help our customers save money, reduce our collective environmental impact and support our community’s responsible energy use.”