114 THE POWER OF POSSIBILITY NISC | 50 YEARS OF INNOVATION AND MEMBER SERVICE to NISC, they said, ‘No problem, we’ve done this before.’ You couldn’t ask for a better partner than NISC.” Like other co-ops around the country, Ozarks Electric is responding to demand from its members. About 100 Ozarks customers installed solar panels on their homes, taking advantage of net metering to sell the power back to the electric grid. A solar farm provides an option that is easier to manage, says Lackey. Each month, the total output of the solar farm is divided by the number of panels, and each member receives credit for their portion. Solar energy’s popularity has been growing. “We receive requests and inquiries on a weekly basis,” says Lackey. The solar farm produces one megawatt of electricity — enough to power up to 200 homes — and Ozarks Electric is considering building another solar project over the state line in Oklahoma. Nationally, solar is the fastest-growing segment of the renewable energy market, as demand grows and costs drop. Most of NISC’s electric utility Members offer net metering for customer-installed solar panels, and about 80 have community solar projects. NISC’s building in Cedar Rapids, HERE COMES THE SUN — AND A CREDIT FOR CUSTOMERS Blue reflective panels tilt toward the sky — 4,080 of them on metal frames, soaking up the sun and turning the rays into power. On a plateau in the Ozark Mountains in northwest Arkansas, this solar farm gives homeowners, businesses and even municipalities a way to invest in renewable energy. Two local towns bought 100 shares, representing a long-term lease on 100 panels and producing enough utility credits to offset the maintenance costs of their public parks. Some homeowners have been able to zero out their monthly utility bills. Ozarks Natural Energy, the first cooperative-owned community solar farm in Arkansas, makes it look easy to be green. But to create that facility, Ozarks Electric Cooperative Corporation in Fayetteville first had to overcome regulatory and technical challenges. To provide credits rather than just charges, the co-op relied on expertise from NISC. “We had no idea how to approach the billing side of it,” says Teresa Lackey, IT Project Management Lead at Ozarks Electric. “With our first call Dosch wants programmers who are smart, creative and motivated, but they also need to embrace the greater purpose — the commitment to serving Members. In the “onboarding” process, new hires learn about the shared values. And if they imagine that shared values are a marketing gimmick, those thoughts are quickly dispelled. Performance measures related to the shared values count for half of the annual appraisal system. “The skills and abilities you bring are important, but the way you honor the shared values is equally important,” says Dosch. In the end, culture wins out over glitz. The average tenure of NISC’s employees is 11.5 years. By comparison, the average national job tenure for IT professionals is about four years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — and just one year at Google and Amazon, according to the online compensation information company PayScale. What does it take to be a great company, and when will NISC be one? Many feel NISC already is there, but Dosch views it differently. It’s in our sights, he says, just over the horizon. And that’s where it will remain. As the 50th anniversary approached,