The electric power industry is changing, and the people who know what lies ahead will be among the thousands attending NRECA's TechAdvantage® Expo 2019 in Orlando, Florida, March 10–13.

"The Lab is back," says Eric Commodore, NRECA's director of meeting and event planning. "It was such a hit with Annual Meeting and TechAdvantage attendees last year that we've looked for vendors and service providers to make it even bigger in 2019."

Co-ops deploying or considering fiber-to-the-home projects will have opportunities to see and test what that technology could mean to consumer-members as they upgrade appliances and other household systems.

"This year, the TechAdvantage Expo will feature a utility-connected home that includes many of the technologies developed for the internet of things," Commodore says. "Visitors will see how co-ops and their members can use interoperability to manage energy use with internet-enabled appliances and other devices."

With more than 72,000 square feet of exhibit space in the newly renovated Orange County Convention Center, the 300 participating vendors will have ample room for demonstrations and product display. A new TechPark will provide opportunities for direct contact with industry experts, who will be available to answer questions and provide in-depth information on their products and services.

"Vendors and attendees will be discussing the tools, systems, and platforms co-ops are using to boost efficiency and productivity," says Steve Young, an NRECA marketing manager. "We'll also feature products and services that are transforming the way co-ops do business."

To keep conference attendees connected, personal FM radios with earbuds will be distributed and will air TechTalk presentations live.

"We've got a great lineup for the TechAdvantage conference this year," says Mary Ackleson, the TechAdvantage program manager. "Our keynote speakers are offering valuable and inspirational insights, and our conference presenters are authorities on some of the top issues confronting co-ops and the entire utility industry."

Cybersecurity expert Kevin Mitnick will speak at the opening general session. Hacking into the systems of 40 major corporations earned him a spot on the FBI's Most Wanted list. He is now the leader of a firm tapped by clients to deliberately infiltrate their secure systems using technology and social engineering.

The closing general session will be both raucous and inspirational with words from former NFL Pro Bowler Karl Mecklenburg. During 12 seasons with the Denver Broncos, Mecklenburg played all seven positions on the defensive line, making him one of the most versatile NFL players of the modern era.

In addition to a full track focused on broadband, the conference will feature the top-rated sessions from the 2018 IEEE Rural Electric Power Conference:

  • Toby Landes of Valquest Systems Inc. will discuss solutions to power-quality issues in large motor applications.
  • Jeremy Blair of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc. will talk about common distribution protection challenges.
  • And Adam Toth of Toth Associates Inc. will discuss rate considerations related to solar distributed generation.

"There is so much going on at TechAdvantage this year," Ackleson says. "The program offers sessions for cooperative professionals who need to know where the assets of consumer-members should be invested."

Among the 72 breakouts and 20 TechPark talks are sessions on communications, disaster recovery, blockchain, and wood pole inspections and treatments. Data analytics, safety, drone operations, and facilities security will also be addressed.

"TechAdvantage runs concurrently with the NRECA Annual Meeting, but it has its own purpose and character," Commodore says. "It's a showcase for existing and emerging cooperative technologies and an opportunity to share techniques and information that helps co-ops get stronger and serve their members better."