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Lee County Electric Cooperative has been serving Southwest Florida’s energy needs since 1940 when orange grove owner George Judd sold the North Fort Myers Mariana Grove power plant to the members who lived in North Fort Myers. Homer T. Welch was the company’s first member of management when LCEC began with 15 miles of distribution line and 158 members, which was about one percent of Lee County’s population at the time.
Within its first year of operation, LCEC offered service to Pine Island, Sanibel and Captiva. In 1941, LCEC retired the Mariana Grove generating plant and signed a contract with Florida Power & Light to purchase power for members at a wholesale rate.
World War II prevented further expansion, but following the war, LCEC purchased the surplus transmission line running from the Buckingham Air Force Base.
By 1951, service had been extended as far south as Chokoloskee Island. In 1953, LCEC acquired the Everglades City Power Plant from Collier County, and then retired the plant when a new distribution line was built to serve the city. In the same period, a new line was extended from Carnestown to serve Marco Island. In 1955, members from Lehigh Acres began purchasing power from LCEC and in 1958, power was connected to the first six model homes in Cape Coral.
No new service territory was added from the late 1950s until 1986, when LCEC extended power to a rural section of Golden Gate Estates, and 1987, when lines were constructed along a revitalized section of Alligator Alley. Today, LCEC is one of the largest cooperatives in the United States with more 250,000 customers and more than 8,000 miles of energized line.
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