Friday, August 31, 2012

Ospreys get a hand from our field crews

Ospreys, large raptors that have made a comeback from Wisconsin's endangered species list, still get an assist from our field crews to protect the birds as well as our equipment.

Because ospreys like to build nests in high structures, electric distribution structures often are attractive sites. The problem is that sticks can fall from the 200-pound nests, causing service interruptions, and the birds could be electrocuted.

Whenever ospreys start to build nests in our facilities, our field crews often construct taller alternative nesting structures for the birds nearby. Because the ospreys prefer the taller structures, they typically will build their nests on the platforms. Ospreys currently use more than 25 platforms that we erected in central and northern Wisconsin as well as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

To assist in identifying and tracking ospreys, we also assist with banding of recently hatched birds by using our equipment to access the nests. This year, we assisted Pat Fisher of The Feather Rehabilitation Center in New London, Wis., with banding at two locations.

Photographs of osprey banding at Weyauwega and New London

Ospreys – sometimes known as sea hawks, fish eagles or fish hawks – live near inland lakes and large reservoirs or river systems. With wingspans approaching 6 feet, ospreys hunt by diving to the water’s surface to pluck fish from the water with their curved talons.

They spend winters in Central and South America, returning in spring to their same nesting sites in North America where they typically lay three eggs a year. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This volunteer work? A can of corn

Employee volunteers sort 6 tons of food.
A team of employees who work in our customer processes and operations support group recently sorted food at Hunger Task Force. The activity was part of the Create a Day of Service initiative that was launched in 2011 as a way to make the communities where we live and work a better place and serve customers in a unique way through employee participation in volunteer activities.

Our volunteers worked together for three hours sorting food and personal care items into boxes.

“Thank you for your group’s help in sorting more than 12,000 pounds of food on Aug. 15. Hunger Task Force is grateful for your efforts in the fight against hunger in our community,” said Justine Kipper, community relations manager – Hunger Task Force. “Food sorting is an important first step in feeding Milwaukee’s hungry, and volunteer groups such as yours are making this possible on the front line. Can by can, and box by box, you’ve sorted and built a supply of healthy and nutritious food that will feed families across Milwaukee.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Employees honored for heroic action

Fitters Brad Buttweiler and Todd Smukowski recently received the Life Sustaining Award from the Midwest Energy Association (MEA) in recognition of their heroic actions on a cold night in January 2012 in the city of Milwaukee.

A gas emergency call was made by a neighbor who said she smelled natural gas at a house next door that was being renovated. Upon arriving, Smukowski found high levels of carbon monoxide coming from the flue gas. Through a window, he saw that the front cover of the furnace was propped open, and the furnace’s wiring looked to have been done by a nonprofessional. Yellow and orange colored flames were escaping from the furnace, indicating it was not operating properly.

The team discovered carbon monoxide (CO) levels at greater than 100 parts per million (PPM). [Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) allows up to 50 ppm as the eight-hour time-weighted average, and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSHA) specifies a ceiling of 200 ppm as the maximum permissible exposure to CO.] Exposure at 100 ppm over time would have been fatal. Buttweiler and Smukowski shut off the gas immediately and called for the electricity to be cut off. They also noticed a light on in the kitchen and decided to call the fire department in case someone was unconscious inside. The fire department gained access using a pry bar to open the kitchen window to help ventilate the room. The firefighters and paramedics found a man unconscious on the floor. The man regained consciousness and was taken to the hospital for observation.

Buttweiler and Smukowski were recognized for their quick thinking and experience, applying exceptional training and know-how when it was needed most. They received their award at the MEA’s annual Gas Operations Technical and Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, on Aug. 2. 

The Midwest Energy Association sponsors the Life Sustaining Awards program to recognize industry employees who have performed service above and beyond the call of duty by saving or attempting to save the life of another. Applicants for these awards are approved by the executive committee of MEA's board of directors.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Field of Honor draws 30,000 to Miller Park

“Thank you veterans for defending our freedom” was the key message to more than 30,000 people who packed Miller Park Aug. 11 when a 78-minute documentary about the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight premiered. Through a contribution by the Wisconsin Energy Foundation, we were the event’s major sponsor.

Live remarks were delivered by Joe Dean, president of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, Inc.; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; Gale Klappa, chairman, president and CEO, We Energies; and Charlie Sykes, WTMJ-AM radio show host. Several other dignitaries and celebrities sent videotaped greetings and thanks, including:
From left, Charlie Sykes, Gale Klappa, Scott Walker. 
At podium, Joe Dean. All were on hand to show their
appreciation to the veterans.
  • Sen. Bob Dole 
  • Gen. John Allen of the U.S. and NATO Forces in Afghanistan 
  • Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and former quarterback Bart Starr 
  • Brewers Chris Narveson, Jonathan Lucroy and Corey Hart 
Former President George H. W. Bush’s letter of thanks also was read at the event.

Wisconsin Energy Foundation has supported the honor flight program since it started, sponsoring several flights.

The documentary, filmed by Wauwatosa native Dan Hayes, chronicles the honor flight experience, from Dean's kernel of an idea that started the program in 2008 to the homecoming that the flight attendees receive at Milwaukee’s airport at the end of their daylong trip to Washington, D. C., to visit the World War II Memorial, other memorials and Arlington National Cemetery.

Veterans, family, friends and other supporters 
packed Miller Park in Milwaukee.
In his remarks, Klappa said, “Through the prism of history, we understand much better today the enormity of the challenge, the magnitude of the sacrifice, and the valor of the young men and women who fought fearlessly for our freedom. Most were just entering the early prime of their lives. Many were fresh out of high school. Regardless, they chose to face, without hesitation, the great terror of that time. And we are forever grateful.”

WITI TV6 video

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Summer heat leads to higher energy use; tips to manage energy bills

Summer has been hot. Although our rates are the same as they were last year, you likely are seeing an increase in your bill because air conditioners and fans use more energy in hot weather. If you don’t use air conditioning, you still might see a higher bill because refrigerators and freezers run more often.

Payment arrangements and assistance
If you or someone you know is having difficulty making full energy bill payments, contact us at 800-842-4565 to discuss payment arrangement options that can help avoid disconnection. Some low- and moderate-income customers -- those with less than 60 percent of the state median income -- may qualify for energy assistance.

Milwaukee County crisis grants
If you live in Milwaukee County and are disconnected or are having difficulty paying your energy bill, contact the Social Development Commission or Community Advocates to apply for a crisis grant. For more information, contact the SDC Energy Assistance Program Hotline at 414-906-2800 or Community Advocates at 414-875-2011.

Wisconsin assistance
If you do not live in Milwaukee County but are in Wisconsin, you can apply for assistance by calling the Home Energy+ hotline at 866-432-8947.

Budget Billing
If you do not qualify for assistance, you can avoid summer bill spikes by signing up for Budget Billing, which evens out payments through the year. You have two options: periodic and continuous. Both plans have a six-month review.
Budget Billing information

Energy efficiency
Another way to manage energy costs is by using energy efficiently.
Cool efficiently to save money

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Agreement signed to purchase Montfort Wind Energy Center

We recently signed an agreement with NextEra Energy Resources to buy the Montfort Wind Energy Center -- an existing 30-megawatt wind farm located in Iowa County, Wis. The purchase price is $27 million.

We currently have a power purchase agreement for 85 percent of the energy from the site. The remaining 15 percent is under a power purchase agreement with Wisconsin Power and Light Co., a subsidiary of Alliant Energy. 

In announcing the agreement, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Gale Klappa said, “We believe this acquisition will deliver positive economic benefits for our customers and our shareholders.” 
The acquisition is subject to approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2012. We will retain NextEra to operate the site under an operations and maintenance agreement.