Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Squirrels: wildlife creature most likely to cause a power outage

It’s a squirrelly situation, but it’s something we deal with all the time.

Wildlife was to blame for 10 percent of power outages for our customers in 2015, and of those, 6 percent were caused by squirrels.

Wildlife protection has been installed to prevent squirrels from climbing on poles or gnawing on our wires. That protection can include a special coating that makes it hard for the squirrels to climb up our equipment as well as bushing covers on our transformers to prevent electrocution.

“Our power lines are the great urban highway for squirrels. As we find problem areas, we try to add protection,” says Mike Miller, a supervising engineer in electrical operations.

Substations are another target of the mischievous squirrel. They find it’s a nice place to build a nest or hide their nuts. We’ve added extra insulation to prevent animals from entering and causing a power outage.

Although squirrels are the most common wildlife pest, they are not alone. Birds, raccoons, snakes and other rodents all have been known to cause power interruptions.

Birds such as ospreys, build nests on top of our power poles. We’ve built several osprey nesting platforms in Wisconsin near power poles to give them a safer alternative.

Strangely enough, bird excrement also causes power outages. Large birds like to roost in the same spot, sometimes on our equipment. When they propel off, they “let go.” That excrement can build up on insulators and cause outages.

About 36,000 of our customers were affected by wildlife outages in 2015.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Partnership educates firefighters about natural gas, electric hazards

We Energies gas and electric operations workers recently hosted a three-day training session at the Milwaukee Police and Fire Training Academy in a new initiative to educate firefighters about the hazards and response tactics associated with natural gas and electric emergencies.

“Partnership in Safety” was the comprehensive program presented to more than 50 firefighters from the Milwaukee Fire Department (MFD). They learned how We Energies first responders evaluate and mitigate natural gas and electric emergencies by studying real-life scenarios. Participants focused on how best to communicate and coordinate resources at various scenes.

“As utility first responders, we share a common goal with firefighters to protect lives,” said Operations Supervisor Joe Thom, who led the program. ”This partnership is sending the message that we’re here to assist the MFD and provide the necessary training so we can work together to protect the public.”

We Energies and MFD will continue the cross-training initiative to enhance their working relationship and preparedness for emergencies.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Safe Digging contest winners make canine cameo in new ad

The winners of our Safe Digging contest, Darby and Boca, got to enjoy the grand unveiling of their winning ad at Energy Park on Aug. 11. Both vizslas, along with their owners, Teresa and Frank Rizzo of Burlington, helped celebrate 8-11 day, a day to raise awareness about calling 811, Diggers Hotline. 

We asked customers to submit photos of their dogs digging in the yard and received dozens of entries. Darby and Boca received the most votes from the public. Now, they get to be ambassadors for our Safe Digging campaign. Their important message: Doggone it! Call 811 before you dig.

Whether you’re planting a tree or installing a mailbox, call 811 at least three days before starting your project to help ensure that you avoid underground utility lines when you dig. You can put yourself in serious danger by striking an underground electric or natural gas line.

You can see Darby and Boca’s winning ad on display at Energy Park throughout the duration of the Wisconsin State Fair. The ad also will be featured on the stadium TVs at Miller Park. For their efforts, Darby and Boca also earned a basket of goodies, including dog treats and special 811 flying discs.

Congratulations to Darby and Boca!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

And the winner is…

It was a “ruff” competition, but the winner – or winners – of our Safe Digging contest are: Darby and Boca! 

Darby and Boca in their winning photo.
At right is the picture of the two vizslas that garnered the most votes in our online contest. More than 2,100 votes were cast, and Darby and Boca captured the majority.

Their owner, Teresa Rizzo of Burlington, Wisconsin, used her own social media savvy to get friends and followers to support the dynamic duo. Boca is 7 years old and is Darby’s mother. Darby turns 4 in August.

Boca and Darby like digging.
Since you can’t see the pair’s faces in their contest entry, we asked Teresa to send us another picture of her pets. They actually have their own
Facebook page, and you can follow them at:

Rustic Road Vizslas 

Thanks to all who voted in the contest and special thanks to all the pet
owners who submitted photos. We received dozens of fantastic entries. Our first runner up, Bucky, also garnered a lot of votes. 

Stay tuned for Darby and Boca’s Safe Digging ad which will be unveiled at Energy Park at the Wisconsin State Fair on Aug. 11 (8-11), a day to raise awareness about dialing 811 three days before you dig.
First runner-up Bucky.

Darby and Boca will help us spread an important safety message: Doggone it! Call Diggers Hotline (811) before you dig. Their ad will be displayed on stadium TVs at Miller Park, and they’ll get a basketful of doggy treats.

Congrats to Darby, Boca and the Rizzo family!

Safe digging tips

Monday, July 25, 2016

Holiday cookies in July?

It’s never too early to think about the holidays. The calendar may say July, but we’re already designing this year’s We Energies Cookie Book.

We just had our photo shoot for the 2016 edition, which will be released in November. Food stylist Jennifer Janz and food photographer Grace Natoli Sheldon worked with our design team to create mouth-watering images.

This year’s book is entitled “The Wisconsin Heritage Edition” and will feature recipes from some familiar faces. Former Olympian Bonnie Blair, comedian John McGivern and gardening guru Melinda Myers are among those whose recipes are included. The 2016 Cookie Book will feature more than 30 holiday cookie recipes.

The We Energies Cookie Book is a tradition that dates back more than 85 years. Company home economists put together the first edition as a goodwill gesture to customers.

Today, the tradition is still going strong with thousands of people lining up at Milwaukee’s Miller Park every year for a free copy of the book. Mark your calendars now – our signature events at Miller Park and Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton are on Saturday, Nov. 5. Distribution events will be held at several other locations throughout our service territory as well.

Be sure to visit our Cookie Book page for links to previous books, plus a video detailing the history of the book. We’ll post a copy of this year’s distribution schedule as soon as it’s finalized.

Fox6 news story

Monday, July 18, 2016

12 finalists make the cut in Safe Digging contest

We asked for pictures of digging dogs and you delivered. Our Safe Digging contest fetched more than 70 entries. It was “ruff” narrowing down the list of finalists, but a dozen dogs made the cut:

These lucky dogs are the finalists (click to enlarge).

Now, “paws” to vote for your favorite. The winner will be featured in our Safe Digging campaign, including ads on the Miller Park stadium TVs and a grand unveiling at Energy Park at the Wisconsin State Fair.

The winner will help us spread an important safety message: Doggone it! Call 811 before you dig. 

Finalists, don’t “fur-get” to tell family and friends to vote by 5 p.m. on Monday, July 25. The winner will be announced the following day. Good luck and thank you to all who submitted photos.

Safe digging tips

Friday, July 15, 2016

Crews install osprey platform in Racine County

Crew assembles nesting platform in Racine County.
A pair of ospreys in northwest Racine County now has a new option to call home. Our crews recently installed a nesting platform in the Tichigan Wildlife Area, giving the pair a safer option than atop our utility poles.

Ospreys frequently attempt to nest on top of our equipment, which can result in power outages and harm to the ospreys. Since 1980, our field crews have constructed alternative nest structures for the birds, in areas where nests are known. These efforts have supported the recovery of ospreys, which now exceed more than 500 breeding pairs in Wisconsin alone.

Crew erects completed platform.
The new platform is approximately 60 feet high in an area being restored to native prairie and wetlands overlooking the Fox River and Tichigan Lake. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) staff observed a pair of osprey in this area earlier this year. The hope is that they’ll find and use the new platform next nesting season.

We’re working with the WDNR to erect several new nest platforms in Racine and Kenosha counties on public lands near the Fox River. Ospreys have been observed frequenting these areas in recent years, but have limited nesting opportunities. These additional platforms will aid overall osprey recovery.