Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Coming soon: 2018 We Energies Cookie Book to be distributed near you

Hot off the press!

As the holidays approach, so does the completion of the 2018 Cookie Book. This year, the Cookie Book is celebrating its 90th anniversary of its first edition. For decades, these books have helped customers bake sweet treats to help celebrate the holidays.

Creating the Cookie Book is a year-long process. We gather recipes, test cookies, conduct photo shoots, print books and distribute them to customers. The books recently were printed and are now being bound and boxed for distribution – a two-week process.

The photos and video below capture various stages of producing the Cookie Book.

 Mark your calendars to pick up a copy of the 2018 edition. We’ll be distributing the Cookie Book to customers at locations throughout our service area, including signature events in Milwaukee and Appleton on Nov. 3. View the distribution schedule.

Decades of deliciousness

It has been 90 years since the first edition of the We Energies Cookie Book was printed. The first Cookie Book was created as a gesture of goodwill by company home economists who hoped to encourage customers to use their appliances. With that, a beloved tradition was born. 

To celebrate the Cookie Book’s 90th anniversary of the Cookie Books first edition, we asked customers to submit their favorite recipes from a past book and to share their cherished Cookie Book memories. The 2018 Cookie Book includes 37 recipes that could become family favorites for years to come.

If you’re curious to see how the Cookie Book has changed over the years, you’ll find more than 50 editions in our Cookie Book archive. The 2018 Cookie Book will be available to view and download on Oct. 30.

Mark your calendars to pick up a copy of the 2018 edition. We’ll be distributing the Cookie Book to customers at locations throughout our service area, including signature events in Milwaukee and Appleton on Nov. 3. View the distribution schedule.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Energy assistance now available

Customers now can apply for energy assistance for the upcoming heating season.

It is simple to make an appointment to apply for energy assistance. Visit the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) website at homeenergyplus.wi.gov or call 866-432-8947.

Milwaukee County residents can apply for assistance in person at Community Advocates or United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS). Visit keepwarmmke.org or call 414-270-4653 for more information.

WHEAP provides qualified residents with a one-time grant to help pay energy bills. Qualification is based on income level, not on whether someone is behind on paying their energy bills.

Households with income at or below 60% of the Wisconsin state median income may be eligible for WHEAP. For example, a family of four that earns up to $52,846 per year may qualify.

Applicants must provide:
  • Photo ID for applicant including name and address. 
  • Proof of income for all household members for previous three months. 
  • Social Security numbers and birthdates for everyone in the household. 
  • Current energy bill or account number. 
  • Phone number of landlord and rent certificate or statement (if applicant is a renter and heat is included in rent or a separate payment is made to the landlord). 
  • The prior year’s entire tax package for seasonal employees and self-employed persons. Rental income must be verified by taxes and Schedule E. 

WHEAP provides assistance to more than 200,000 Wisconsin families annually.

Customers with questions about their energy bills or payment options should call our payment assistance line at 800-842-4565.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

We Energies sponsors third year of China Lights

China Lights has returned for its third year at Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners. We are sponsoring the event once again as part of our commitment to supporting arts and culture in the communities we serve. Last year’s event sold out, attracting more than 100,000 visitors.

The gardens are illuminated by more than 40 handmade lantern sculptures, each assembled on-site by artisans from China. With the theme of Panda-Mania, this year’s festival features many new lanterns shaped like pandas, other endangered creatures and their environments. Visitors can take a walking tour through the displays, and children can swing and step on lights in a pair of interactive exhibits.

Two concession areas offer Asian and Western cuisine, and in the marketplace, vendors make and sell traditional Chinese handicrafts and gifts. A parade at about 6:15 p.m. every evening leads guests through the gardens. Following the parade, stages sponsored by our company host a variety of live performances, including spinning tops, Chinese string instruments, juggling, masked dances and martial arts demonstrations.

China Lights runs through Oct. 21 from 5:30 to 10 p.m. and is closed to the public on Mondays. Learn more about the event, including information on tickets and parking, at chinalights.org.

Monday, October 1, 2018

We Energies Foundation backs sturgeon release

Nearly 1,000 young lake sturgeon were added to the Lake Michigan ecosystem Sept. 29 as part of Sturgeon Fest 2018. The sturgeon were tagged before release to provide information about their lifecycle as part of an ongoing effort to strengthen sturgeon population.

The prehistoric fish once numbered millions in Lake Michigan but were decimated through intense fishing. In recent years, sturgeon have been making a comeback, with a little help from some friends. The We Energies Foundation is a longtime supporter of the Riveredge Nature Center’s lake sturgeon reintroduction project and Sturgeon Fest.

Sturgeon Fest celebrates Riveredge Nature Center’s 25-year partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to bring the sturgeon back to the Milwaukee River, where they haven’t been seen for more than a century.

Lakeshore State Park in downtown Milwaukee was the scene for the Sturgeon Fest release, an annual event that also includes games and crafts for kids, educational booths and food trucks.

“Supporting this sturgeon initiative aligns directly with our foundation’s environment and education focus areas,” said Tom Jansen, a manager in WEC Energy Group’s Environmental department and a Riveredge board member, who attended the event. “The event improves the environment and helps raise awareness about this threatened species.” 

The We Energies Foundation’s environment focus supports environmental education, resource preservation and conservation programs that guide communities in its service area toward a sustainable future.

We Energies is a subsidiary of WEC Energy Group. 

Related links:

Sturgeon Fest attendees at Lake Shore State Park lined the park's banks to watch the sturgeon release.

One of the young sturgeon prior to release.

Nearly 1,000 young sturgeon were brought to the park for release in Lake Michigan.

Richard Gonzalez, a member of the Oneida Nation, Iroquois Confederation, Turtle Clan, 
conducted a blessing and released one of the sturgeon.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

We Energies to sell Solvay Coke site to Komatsu

In a joint arrangement among We Energies, the City of Milwaukee and Komatsu Mining Corp., 43 acres of the Milwaukee Solvay Coke site, owned by We Energies since 2017, is to be sold to Komatsu. The signing of a term sheet for the sale was announced at an on-site event co-hosted by the three parties Sept. 27, that was attended by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, as well as members of the Board of Harbor Commissioners, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and Milwaukee 7 (M7) regional development organization.

From left: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Kamatsu Mining CEO and President Jeffrey Dawes,
WEC Energy Group Chairman and CEO Gale Klappa, Milwaukee Development Corp. Treasurer Frank Krejci,
and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
At the event, Jeffrey Dawes, president and CEO of Komatsu Mining, announced the mining company’s plans to develop the property with a nearly $300 million investment in a new corporate headquarters and manufacturing campus. With a 134-year history in the city, Dawes described the importance of the project to the mining company’s long-term growth strategy.

WEC Energy Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gale Klappa, speaking on behalf of We Energies and the M7, added “Komatsu – a global industry leader – is making a major investment that will have a defining impact on Milwaukee’s future. And I’m particularly pleased that Komatsu has chosen to invest in the redevelopment of this area, adding another strong presence to the Harbor District.

“Today’s announcement also highlights how attractive our region is to global companies and the remarkable asset we have in our workforce,” Klappa continued. “Today is a shining example of what can be achieved when the public and private sectors work together for the common good. Go, Komatsu. And On Wisconsin!”
WEC Energy Group Chairman and CEO Gale Klappa
In addition to the new Komatsu facility, the sale supports the city’s development of approximately 2 acres of the site for a planned riverwalk nearby and provides for public access to the waterfront.

The site, which had been used for a variety of industrial processes, such as coke and manufactured gas production, as well as coal and coke storage since the late 1880s, was put up for sale by its previous owner in 2016. As one of several past tenants identified as responsible for remediation of the site, We Energies purchased the property and worked jointly with the Environmental Protection Agency and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to remove and recycle tens of thousands of tons of debris from the property, including rubber, asphalt, steel and crushed concrete.

We Energies will continue to remediate the site through 2019. Completion of the sale is anticipated in 2020.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Ellie spreads safe digging message on 8-11 day

Ellie, who was voted top dog in our recent safe digging contest, is spreading an important message for 8-11 day, a day devoted to raising awareness about calling 811 before digging projects. Ellie's new promotional ad will be featured on electronic billboards around the Milwaukee area on 8-11 day.

In addition to having their dog featured in our ad, Ellie’s family also received tickets to the Wisconsin State Fair where they can see Ellie’s promotional material on display at Energy Park. If you stop by Energy Park, you can get your picture taken with an Ellie cut-out to help spread the message about safe digging. 

Ellie's cut-out at Energy Park
Whether you’re planting a tree, installing fence posts or doing digging for other reasons, you could be putting yourself in danger if you strike an underground natural gas or electric line. Doggone it! Call 811 before you dig. A utility locating service will come out to mark locations of underground utilities on your property for free. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Ellie becomes new canine safe digging ambassador

Ellie, a 4-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier/Whippet mix, from Waukesha, Wisconsin, was voted top dog in our contest to find a new canine safe digging ambassador. She will help spread an important message about safe digging in a new promotional ad:

Customers sent about 100 photos of dogs digging in their yards. After paring down the entries to 10 finalists, we conducted a public vote on Facebook. More than 1,400 people voted. Ellie garnered the most votes, followed closely by Tucker, of Appleton. Congratulations to all of our finalists, and thank you to all who participated.

Runner-up Tucker
In addition to having their dog featured in our ad, Ellie’s family also received tickets to the Wisconsin State Fair where they can see Ellie’s promotional material on display at Energy Park. If you stop by Energy Park, you can get your picture taken with an Ellie cut-out to help spread the message about safe digging. 
Ellie's cut-out at Energy Park
Ellie also will be sharing her important message on We Energies’ Facebook and Twitter channels. On Aug. 11, her ad will be featured on digital billboards in the Milwaukee area for 8-11 day, which raises awareness about safe digging. Remember, 811 is the number to call at least three days before you dig. A utility locating service will come out to mark locations of underground utilities on your property for free. 

Whether you’re planting a tree, installing fence posts or doing digging for other reasons, you could be putting yourself in danger if you strike an underground natural gas or electric line. Doggone it! Call 811 before you dig.

More information about working safely in your yard

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Employee’s ’unbearable’ experience goes viral

Imagine waking in the middle of the night to find a bear trapped at your house.

“It was around 1 a.m. on June 20, and my wife and I heard this sound like, ‘Ma! Ma!’” recalled Steve Sickler, an expediting clerk at our service center in Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin.

Sickler followed the sound to a construction project at his Eagle River home. Inside the foundation for a new sun room, he found a stranded bear cub.

“I always knew we had bears in the area, but never saw one near our home until that night.”  

The cub had fallen into the foundation and was frantically calling to its mother. Eager to avoid a confrontation with the adult bear, Sickler wisely stayed inside and called 911. The Vilas County Sheriff’s Department dispatched a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) warden to the site. 

While waiting for the warden to arrive, Sickler and his wife watched the distraught mother bear pacing back and forth outside their home for over an hour. Meanwhile, the mom’s two other cubs were waiting in a nearby tree.

Sickler had a hunch the cub may climb up a ladder, if he could lower one into the foundation. When the DNR warden arrived, they agreed on the game plan. Within seconds of lowering the ladder, the cub climbed to the top. 

“This was a million to one thing. I’ll never see anything like this again.”

The rescue, which was captured on video, has since gone viral. Sickler has seen it picked up by news sites in England, Australia, India, Iran and Israel. Here in the U.S., stations in Texas, Florida, California and many more have posted the video. And, of course, Wisconsin media outlets have been especially interested. Stations in Rhinelander and Wausau interviewed the Sicklers.

“It blows me away. We finally get our 15 minutes of fame. Well, this is well beyond 15 minutes.”

Link to WJFW story

Link to WSAW story

Monday, June 25, 2018

Introducing the falcon ‘Class of 2018’

The peregrine falcon nesting season has drawn to a close at our power plants. This season, we saw 16 chicks born at our facilities. 

Hatchlings at four of our five sites have fledged, leaving empty nest boxes behind. Chicks remain at only one site, Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette, Michigan. Dan and Tim likely will be leaving the nest box within a couple weeks. Watch them while you can on our live webcam feed at www.we-energies.com/falcons.

With the addition of this year’s chicks, the total number of peregrines born at We Energies power plants stands at more than 270. Nearly 20 percent of Wisconsin’s peregrine population has come from our company’s nesting sites.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

We Energies employees test augmented reality equipment

We Energies has been participating in a large-scale experiment to see how augmented reality could fit into the energy industry to enable a more efficient and safer work environment in the future. The study is sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and is conducted by Marquette University.
Marquette University Graduate Research Assistant, Ashley Toll
 and We Energies Plant Operator, Kevin Gyurina prepare to test equipment.
Augmented reality is a technology that overlays a user’s view of the physical world with digital objects and information. Energy company employees could use augmented reality headsets to access data, history, procedures and maps of power plants and electric distribution equipment while on site.

Over the past year, power plant operators tested wearable technology for ergonomics. The test looked at four major concerns of using this hardware for workers in the energy industry:
  • Neck and shoulder effects because of added weight to helmet 
  • Eye health 
  • Movement and balance
  • Situational awareness 
Study results may influence developers of augmented reality equipment.

We Energies Plant Operator, Eric Zakszewki wears
augmented reality gear for testing at the power plant
During a recent test of the equipment at the Elm Road Generating Station, Randy Scheck, plant central scheduler, said, “By participating in this testing, we can help advance technology and be prepared for possible future implementation.”

This EPRI study is one of many that We Energies has participated in over the past 20 years. One highlight noted by Marquette Professor Richard Marklin, who facilitates the research projects, was a study that led more electric energy companies to change from manual tools to battery-powered tools to cut cables. We Energies employees were the test subjects for that influential study.

“We Energies is really regarded as very progressive and is one of the leaders of safety and health across the industry. One piece of evidence of that is that We Energies adopted early on battery-powered tools,” said Marklin. “I sleep well at night knowing the work and studies we’ve done with We Energies have reduced the risk of injuries to workers.”

EPRI recently presented special recognition to Power Generation and Field Operations for their service to ergonomics studies.

Eric Bauman, EPRI senior technical leader and program manager, stated, “This award is presented to We Energies for over 20 years of priceless in-kind support to advance the science, engineering and practical applications of ergonomics research conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute to improve the health, safety and quality of life for the dedicated workers in the electric utility industry and their families.”

The recognition was presented to Pat Stiff, vice president – coal and biomass, and Vern Peterson, vice president – Wisconsin field operations.

“These studies really have an impact on our employees. Because of this tremendous partnership, employees are out there working safer, their careers may be longer, and they may enjoy retirement a lot more because they may be without the aches and the pains,” said Peterson.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

National honor for company’s contributions in Puerto Rico

We’ve received special recognition for our crews’ contributions to the unprecedented power restoration effort in Puerto Rico earlier this year. Our industry trade group, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), honored us with an Emergency Assistance Award at a ceremony in San Diego June 5.
From Left: Bill Mastoris, vice president - supply chain;
Dave Megna, vice president - Wisconsin system operations;
Kevin Fletcher, president - Wisconsin utilities; 
Kim Higginbotham, We Energies line mechanic;
Chris Fernandez, WPS lead line journeyman.
We Energies, along with our sister company Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), sent more than 70 employees to Puerto Rico in January. They joined crews from nearly 60 other electric companies in what would become our company’s longest restoration mission to date. The majority of our employees spent eight weeks restoring power in Puerto Rico.

“We could not be more proud of our employees for dedicating two months of their lives to this humanitarian mission,” said Gale Klappa, our chairman and CEO. “This was an unprecedented effort for us, sending crews and equipment outside the continental United States for the first time in our company’s history.”

Aside from the awards ceremony, EEI organized a recognition event for Puerto Rico restoration workers at a San Diego Padres game. Line workers from dozens of utilities, including We Energies’ Kim Higginbotham and WPS’ Chris Fernandez, lined the field for the first pitch.

Fernandez and Higginbotham, at far right, honored on the field at Petco Park. 
“The power restoration effort in Puerto Rico was a massive and unprecedented mission, and electric companies from across the country, including WEC Energy Group, responded to the call for help,” said EEI President Tom Kuhn. “The electric power industry pulled together with one goal in mind, to restore power to the people of Puerto Rico. It truly was one team, one mission. WEC Energy Group is deserving of this recognition for providing tremendous support to PREPA and our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico.”

A bird's-eye view at Petco Park in San Diego June 4.
On May 22, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) announced that power had been restored across the island to 99 percent of its customers who could receive electricity. This was a significant milestone that was reached by PREPA and its restoration partners, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contractors, and industry mutual assistance crews.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Peregrine falcon program will continue to soar in Kenosha County, thanks to Ardent Mills

Peregrine falcons have been living at our Pleasant Prairie Power Plant for more than 20 years. In fact, the plant played a critical role in Wisconsin’s peregrine falcon recovery effort. In 1991, it became one of the first nest box sites in the state, and the following year, 15 captive-produced peregrines were released there. A total of 66 falcons have since been born at the site, more than any of our other power plant nest boxes.

Windsor, CJ, Lisa and Rimfire
Monday’s falcon banding at the now-retired power plant was bittersweet for our peregrine manager and founder of the state’s peregrine recovery effort, Greg Septon. After 22 annual banding visits to the plant, this was his last. The nest box will be closed later this summer due to the plant’s decommissioning. But Septon’s work in Kenosha County will continue, thanks to a new partner offering an alternative home to the falcons.

Earlier this spring, Pat Hicks, plant manager at Ardent Mills, was reading an article in the Kenosha News, which mentioned the need for a new nest box site. Hicks immediately thought his company, a commercial flour producer, would be a perfect match. Ardent’s Kenosha facility is just a couple miles from the power plant and more than 100 feet tall, offering the height that peregrines love. Hicks called us and offered the location for a nest box for peregrine falcons next year. 

Employee Lisa Rivera, holding the chick she named Lisa, 
with Pat Hicks, holding Windsor.
On Monday, Hicks got a first-hand look at the program he’s inheriting. He visited the power plant to see four peregrine chicks get their wildlife bands, and he even got to name one – Windsor, a reference to the hype over the recent royal wedding. Windsor, a male, joined brother Rimfire, and sisters, Lisa and CJ, for a group picture, the last falcon family photo at the plant.

The new nest box will be installed at Ardent Mills this summer. After it’s in place, the box at the power plant will be closed, forcing the resident falcons to look for a new home. The hope is they’ll easily find the new option a couple miles to the east. Septon has negotiated moves like this successfully in the past and is optimistic that at this time next year, he’ll be in Kenosha County banding chicks again – but this time at Ardent Mills.

From left: Dave Groshek (holding CJ), Lisa Rivera (holding Lisa),
Pat Hicks (holding Windsor) and Greg Septon (holding Rimfire).

Friday, May 18, 2018

Honor Flights provide an emotional experience for veterans and volunteers

Two Stars and Stripes Honor Flights on Saturday, May 5, carried 156 veterans and their guardians to Washington, D.C., to visit memorials dedicated to U.S. service members. The flights were sponsored by We Energies and included the support of employees who wrote letters and volunteered for the event.

“We are so grateful for the incredible support of WEC Energy Group employees who wrote almost 200 letters for our veterans’ mail call packages, and for the We Energies employees who were up before dawn and late into the evening assisting our veterans at the airport,” said Karyn Roelke, vice president – Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. “Several We Energies employees even spent the entire day accompanying a veteran on the flight, giving those veterans a day they will never forget.”

Saluting the veterans

The day started early as 15 We Energies volunteers arrived at General Mitchell International Airport before 4 a.m. They helped with a variety of assignments, including welcoming veterans and escorting veterans and their guardians to the gate.

We Energies volunteers at the airport on May 5.
In Washington, the veterans and guardians visited eight memorials: Vietnam Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Pentagon Memorial, Air Force Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and Tomb of the Unknown Solider, where they witnessed the changing of the guard ceremony.

“I was moved by the respect that everyone had for the veterans – thanking them for their service at every stop. What impressed me the most were the young adults and kids that recognized the veterans, shook their hands, hugged them and thanked them over and over again,” said Dave Megna, vice president – Wisconsin system operations, who was one of the guardians from We Energies.

Another guardian from We Energies, Jason Cleaver, senior IT applications consultant, added, “One moment during the trip that really showed how much the veterans were appreciated was at the Vietnam Memorial. There was a class from Mequon that formed a line, and as we walked by, all of the students, faculty and parents thanked the vets for their service.”

“It was an honor to have been the guardian for not only one, but two, female Vietnam War-era veterans,” said Erin Ganzenmuller, environmental consultant – land quality. “One served in the Navy and the other in the Air Force. Of the 156 veterans on the two Honor Flights, only three were women. As a veteran myself, it was especially humbling to accompany them on their journey.” 

Employee Erin Granzenmuller with two Vietnam War-era veterans. 
Added another guardian from We Energies, Brian Roush, outage planner/scheduler – power generation, “As a veteran myself, I was very thankful to have the opportunity to give back to our older veterans as a sign of appreciation and respect. And since the veterans I was accompanying needed a guest guardian, they were thankful for me volunteering to help them. As a result, we all said ‘thank you’ a bunch to each other.”

The veterans – the majority of whom served in Vietnam – received a heroes’ welcome upon arrival in Milwaukee with a homecoming parade in the concourse.

“I was briefed about the homecoming parade at the guardian training, so I thought I was ready. I was wrong,” Cleaver said. “When we made it past the main terminal, there was a wall of people cheering, holding banners and waving American flags.”

Friday, May 11, 2018

20 years as a Tree Line USA award-winner

We Energies earned the Tree Line USA award for the 20th consecutive year from the Arbor Day Foundation.

Tree Line USA is a national program recognizing energy companies for practices that protect and enhance America’s urban forests. This program is a collaboration of the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters.

The company earned the award by meeting program standards, such as sponsoring tree-plantings and public education programs, maintaining a tree-based energy conservation program, and helping communities and citizens choose appropriate trees to plant near energy lines.

We Energies foresters with the Tree Line USA flag.
“Your commitment to proper tree-care benefits your customers in numerous ways, including providing cleaner air and water, increasing property values and improving quality-of-life. Trees also conserve energy and reduce peak demand, a crucial benefit to customers,” wrote Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation.

The award was presented to our forestry department by Kim Sebastian, regional urban forestry coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“You are being honored for high-quality tree care. You’re inspiring others with the work you do,” said Sebastian. “The human health connection of your work with trees is a benefit to our communities.”

Visit our website to learn about tree trimming safety and conservation landscaping, and always remember to call 811 before you dig.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Falcon chicks have arrived!

Baby falcons have arrived at four of our power plant nest boxes. Fluffy white chicks are visible on the webcams at our Pleasant Prairie, Oak Creek, Port Washington and Valley Power Plant sites.

Here’s a progress report from each site:
  • Valley Power Plant, Milwaukee: Three out of four eggs have hatched 
  • Pleasant Prairie Power Plant: All four eggs have hatched 
  • Port Washington Generating Station: Two out of five eggs have hatched 
  • Oak Creek Power Plant: Two out of three have hatched 
  • Presque Isle Power Plant, Marquette, Michigan: Four eggs present 
If every egg hatches, it will be a banner year for We Energies’ peregrine falcon program with 20 chicks. That would put the company’s total at well over 250 since 1997. Here's a link to our webcams: www.we-energies.com/falcons.

Peregrine falcons remain listed as endangered in Wisconsin after their near extinction from widespread pesticide use in the 1960s. Today, Wisconsin has more than 30 successful nesting sites across the state.

Friday, April 20, 2018

We Energies protects wood turtles

Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day, and we’re celebrating by highlighting some of our environmental initiatives.

Sometimes, we encounter threatened and endangered species during our construction projects. The projects could include building a new natural gas line or installing new power lines. We need to be aware of the animals in our project zones.

Wood turtles are listed as a threatened species in Wisconsin. They prefer to nest in sand banks near rivers and streams, but they also are known to nest along roadsides, fields and gravel pits.

When we have a project that has the potential to disturb wood turtle habitat, we collaborate with the Department of Natural Resources to ensure we are taking all appropriate measures to avoid any impacts to the habitats. These measures include conducting surveys in advance of our projects to ensure our equipment will not come in contact with the turtles. We also have installed exclusion fencing to prevent the turtles from entering our work zones, and we directionally drill to bore underneath turtle habitat to prevent disruption.

As part of our protection and conservation of wood turtles, we assist Turtles For Tomorrow, a conservation program dedicated to habitat management and landowner education about rare reptiles and amphibians in Wisconsin. We have assisted with restoration of several nest sites near our hydroelectric facilities, as well as provided funding for a camera-monitoring and site-management project that will aid in monitoring nest predation, vandalism and hatching success.

Saving Karner blue butterflies

Wisconsin is home to the largest remaining population of Karner blue butterflies in the world. They are a federally endangered species due to their loss of habitat.

We Energies worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to develop and implement the Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). This plan establishes a formal working process to conduct business operations for constructing and maintaining utility lines while maintaining, restoring and creating habitats for the Karner blues.

The HCP is unique in the country. From a utility standpoint, much of the work that occurs along utility corridors results in temporary disturbances to the Karner blue’s natural habitat.

Wild lupine is a perennial plant in the pea family with beautiful pink and blue flowers. This plant is essential to the survival of Karner blues, as it is the only food they eat as larvae. Without lupine, Karner blues are incapable of reproducing. Utility construction and maintenance projects remove brush along corridors, allowing lupine to grow and thrive.

The Karner Blue Butterfly HCP is working so well that it is now focused on recovery of the Karner blue butterfly population in Wisconsin. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the listed status of the species to “threatened,” or even delisted from federal protected status altogether.

In 2015, We Energies restored more than 50 acres of habitat in the heart of the Karner blue range during the construction of the West-Central Lateral, a natural gas pipeline in Western Wisconsin. Early monitoring and management of this area is indicating restoration is a success. Karner blues have been documented to be thriving in the restored habitat in just a couple of years following initial restoration.

Bald eagle and osprey recovery continues in Wisconsin

For decades, We Energies has supported the recovery of bald eagle and osprey populations. These raptor species once thrived in the Midwest, but DDT use and habitat loss led to dramatic population declines between the 1950s and 1970s. Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has watched their development over the last four decades. In 2016, the DNR recorded the highest number of nesting sites since monitoring began in 1973.

We Energies employees assist with
an eagle banding in May 2016. 
The DNR’s 2016 aerial survey results showed 1,504 occupied bald eagle nests, 39 more than in 2015, and 558 occupied osprey nests, 16 more than in 2015. To put this further in perspective, the 1973 survey recorded only 108 eagle and 92 osprey nests.

“The comeback of our great raptors since their near-demise just over 50 years ago is truly remarkable,” said Mike Grisar, principal environmental consultant at We Energies. “Without the hard work of the resource managers and the aid of utility companies, the recovery of these species would certainly not have been so successful.”

Utilities have a major role to play in raptor conservation due to the species’ nesting habits. Bald eagles and ospreys both tend to build their large nests in the tallest trees available – or, on occasion, the tallest utility poles, which can result in power outages and harm to the birds.

We have worked with the DNR and environmental nonprofits since the early 1980s to help raptor populations recover. Our Bald Eagle Protection Plan prevents disturbances to nesting eagles, preserves canopy trees for future nesting sites and offers public financial incentive to report raptor nests on company lands. When we discover an occupied nest near a project site, we evaluate each situation and develop a strategy to avoid impacting active nests.

Our field crews also erect nesting platforms for raptors, primarily osprey. As these raptor diets rely heavily on fish, the platforms are typically raised near water. They stand taller than any manmade structures in the area, encouraging raptors to choose them in favor of utility poles, and they expand nesting opportunities in wetlands, along lakeshores and in other areas with limited mature tree growth. Company crews have installed nest platforms in nearly 30 Wisconsin and Michigan counties across our electric service areas. We collaborate with environmental and wildlife agencies to monitor raptor activity and attach leg bands for conservation research.

Grisar has helped coordinate company efforts for raptor recovery since the mid-2000s, and he has seen their numbers rise almost every year. He is optimistic about their future in Wisconsin and Michigan.

“It is an honor to work for a utility company that has such commitment to environmental stewardship, and it is humbling to know we have made such a difference,” Grisar said.
We are dedicated to keeping our customers and local wildlife safe. With nests weighing up to 200 pounds, eagles and ospreys can damage power lines and cause arcing, power outages and nest fires. If you see a raptor building a nest on a live power line or utility pole, please contact our 24-hour customer service at 800-242-9317.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Answers to common questions about power outages, restoration

Reliable service is a hallmark of We Energies, but sometimes power outages happen. Dave Megna, vice president – Wisconsin system operations, and Duane Miller, manager – gas and electric distribution operations, answer five common questions about We Energies' preparation and response to  power outages caused by storms.

How does We Energies prepare when storms are approaching? 

Duane: We make extensive preparation for storms. We constantly monitor the weather to anticipate what the impact might be. We use several weather services to do that. Based on that information, we make sure additional employees are on standby to respond once outages start to occur.

Dave: The internal communications that go on in advance of and throughout the storm are just as important. We hold quite a few conference calls to prepare both our field and our office resources. We’ve got people who are available to dispatch orders as well as the crews to make the repairs.

How do you typically respond when there is storm damage? 

Dave Megna, vice president -
Wisconsin system operations
Dave: Quickly. We determine if the damage is isolated or widespread. We call our first responders in to make the areas safe and deal with downed wires and hazards first, so that we’re keeping our customers and employees safe. Then our repair crews start bringing customers back in service. If there’s extensive damage, we’ll reach out to neighboring utilities to bring on additional resources.

Sometimes, a first responder can restore service, too, but other times, they don’t have all of the equipment or they need to move on and make another location safe. So, a customer might see a truck pull up to the house, do some work and leave, but the power isn’t restored. That can be frustrating, but in reality it was probably because the first responder couldn’t make the final repair or was needed elsewhere on the system.

Why does the power come back on so quickly after some outages but not others? 

Duane Miller, manager -
gas and electric distribution 
Duane: Outages occur for a variety of reasons; therefore, there are some that are restored very quickly and others that take considerably more time. An example of a quick restoration is when we have a tree branch touching a wire. We can just remove that branch. But with a car-pole accident, where the pole is broken and we have to set a new pole and install new equipment, the outage would take much longer.

Dave: Typically, in the summertime, we have severe thunderstorms that produce a lot of wind and lightning. Wind causes a lot of damage – it causes poles to break, trees to break and facilities to be damaged. It generates a lot of extensive repairs. On the shoulder months – in the spring and in the fall – we might see more lightning storms that don’t cause as much damage; they are faster repairs because a fuse blows versus a wire coming down. Our devices that are in place protect the system from severe damage and limit the amount of repair work required. That’s another reason why power can be restored, in some cases, much more quickly.

How do you determine the estimated restoration time (ERT)? 

First responders address downed wires
and hazards first but sometimes make 
simple repairs. Most repairs require full 
crews and specialized equipment.
Dave: Every outage is different. Our first responders and repair crews have a pretty good idea based on experience how much time it takes to restore the power. If it’s a simple repair, they can figure it’s going to take them half an hour. If there’s a broken pole and downed wires, they can estimate that the job is going to take about five to six hours. Underground circuits can be more difficult because the crew has to find the fault then dig it up to see how extensive the damage is. Overall, we can have a pretty good idea, but sometimes things happen while they’re making repairs, and it takes a little longer.

During a storm, we assess the damage and typically set a global ERT -- a time when all customers will be restored. When we dispatch that work, one of our repair crews will then set the ERT for the work they’re doing.

Will you contact me after an outage is reported? 

Duane: There are several communications that you may receive after you report an outage. If we’re going to extend the ERT by an hour or more, an automated phone call will go out to you. We will also call with an updated ERT if you didn’t have one when you originally called. The other communication you’ll receive is a phone call to verify that you are back in service and provide the cause for the outage if we found one.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week

Gov. Scott Walker has declared April 9 to 13, 2018, as Wisconsin's Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week. Two tornado drills will occur on Thursday, April 12, at 1:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. The first drill is to help schools and businesses prepare for storm season. The second drill is an opportunity for families to create and review their emergency plans. Many communities will sound tornado sirens, and radio and TV stations will issue test tornado warnings.

According to the National Weather Service, on average, 23 tornadoes touch down in Wisconsin each year. We work to maintain a reliable power delivery system, but severe weather and other events sometimes cause power outages that require many hours and even days to resolve.

Be prepared and know what to do should a power outage occur. First, call the We Energies electric outage hotline at 800-662-4787 or report your outage online. Any information that you can provide about the source or scope of the outage will support our response efforts. Remember to stay at least 25 feet away from downed power lines or flooded areas, and stay out of flooded basements or rooms.

An emergency kit can help during an outage. Assemble the items you may need and keep them in a place that can be accessed easily in the dark.

Suggested items:
  • Flashlights and extra batteries 
  • Blankets 
  • Water: half gallon per day per person 
  • Canned or dried food 
  • Hand-operated can opener 
  • First-aid kit 
  • Prescription medications 
  • Specialty items for infants, seniors or disabled family members
If you have advance notice of severe storms or other conditions that may lead to extended power outages, consider taking additional precautions:
  • Set freezer and refrigerator colder to help food stay safe longer 
  • Fill vehicle gas tank (gas station pumps do not operate without power) 
  • Get cash (credit or debit cards may not work if power is out) 
  • Charge devices, especially cell phones; consider spare power 
  • Know emergency shelter locations 
  • Get bottled water, other supplies 
Other considerations: 
  • Battery backup for sump pump 
  • Solar power cellphone charger 
  • Generator to power important appliances 
  • Surge suppression devices for protection when power returns 
  • Card or board games to pass time 
  • Dry ice for refrigerator/freezer 
  • Frozen jugs of water 
  • Well-being of friends, neighbors and relatives 
Any changes to the mock tornado drill will be posted on the ReadyWisconsin website.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Dam Safety Awareness Week, April 1-7

In recognition of Dam Safety Awareness Week (April 1-7, 2018) as proclaimed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, We Energies strongly urge recreational and fishing enthusiasts to be safe around dams and hydroelectric facilities.

The week’s purpose is to emphasize the importance of safety near dams and on waterways to help prevent accidents. Most accidents at dams can be prevented by simply staying away from restricted areas and learning about the dangers associated with dams.

Safety precautions include:
  • Obey all warning signs
  • Heed horns or sirens
  • Be aware of rapidly changing water conditions
  • Practice safe boating and swimming
  • Bring a cell phone and contact 911 in an emergency 
  • Wear a personal flotation device (life jacket) 
  • Stay outside buoy lines and away from restricted areas near dams
  • Have a safe escape route planned when near a dam and evacuate at the first sign of danger 

Friday, March 23, 2018

We Energies Foundation, Discovery World partner on new energy exhibit

We Energies and Discovery World recently announced details about a new partnership that includes a $2 million We Energies Foundation contribution dedicated to the creation of a new energy experience called Power On. This immersive exhibition will allow visitors to explore the generation and transformation of many different forms of energy and discover how the transformation of energy drives the world.

Scheduled to open in October 2018, Power On consists of multiple interactive exhibits that enable guests to generate energy and explore some of the important energy concepts that permeate everyday lives. In addition, Discovery World is developing a new STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and math), energy-focused educational curriculum with We Energies and other community partners to complement the permanent exhibit.

We are pleased and excited to partner with Discovery World to invite families and students to interact with the vital force that powers their daily lives, said Beth Straka, vice president – We Energies Foundation and senior vice president – corporate communications and investor relations. Were hoping Power On inspires the next generation of engineers and innovators who will be integral to the success of our industry.

The energy experience will allow guests to engage in all kinds of physical activities that are connected to the most important topics and concepts around energy, said Discovery World President and CEO Joel Brennan. This powerful, often unseen force will become better understood and appreciated through these highly interactive experiences.

Alongside our partners from We Energies, were excited to bring an exhibit to our community that demonstrates how humans have harnessed different types of energy through technological innovations, scientific discovery and persistent curiosity about the world around us.

Families, school groups, and visitors of all ages will encounter amazing energy transformations in this one-of-a-kind kaleidoscopic journey. Children and their families will be able to:
  • Reach out and touch lightning
  • Explore how wind turbines work
  • Discover how to meet a citys energy needs 
  • Play with invisible light energy
  • Experiment with gravitational potential energy
The energy experience will be accessible for visitors of all ages, toddlers to grandparents. It also will provide a unique experience for school groups and engage them directly with science experiments and activities that may inspire interest in STEM as well as the potential career opportunities associated with the energy industry.

Discovery World is Milwaukee’s premier, nonprofit family science and technology center. The 120,000-square-foot center offers fun and educational experiences and features interactive exhibits, Reiman Aquarium, educational labs and programs, and other activities.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Catch up on your bill and 'Stay Connected'

We urge customers behind on their energy bills to catch up before the end of the winter moratorium on utility shut-offs. Customers in significant arrears are at risk of disconnection starting April 16. We are using phone calls and bill inserts to alert customers who are behind on their payments.

Payment options

Customers having problems paying their bills are encouraged to contact us as soon as possible at 800-842-4565. A minimum payment option and flexible payment plans may be available.

Some customers also may qualify for energy assistance through the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP). There is no charge to determine eligibility or to apply for assistance. Customers can learn more about energy assistance at homeenergyplus.wi.gov or by calling 866-HEAT-WIS (866-432-8947).

Unfortunately, scammers have been known to prey on customers during this time of the year. A common ploy demands immediate payment via prepaid debit card. We do not solicit payments in this manner. Customers who receive suspicious phone calls or emails should contact us directly to verify the status of their account.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Peregrines populate power plant nest boxes

All five of our peregrine falcon nest boxes on our power plants have residents.

Pleasant Prairie Power Plant
PBR, (b/r) 07/B, is back for his seventh year. He was produced in 2009 at Milwaukee’s
Miller Brewery site. The adult female at the site is not banded.

Oak Creek Power Plant
Michael, (b/r) P/58, is back for a second year. He was produced in 2015 at the Racine
County Courthouse site. The female is Eurus, (b/blu) 48/M, produced in 2016 at the
Georgia Pacific Paper Mill in Green Bay. This is her first year at Oak Creek.

Valley Power Plant
Hercules, (b/r) 60/R, is back in Milwaukee for his fifth year. He was produced in 2011 at Milwaukee’s St. Joseph’s Hospital site. The adult female is not banded.

Port Washington Generating Station
Beasley, (b/r) P/07, is here for a second year. He was produced in 2014 at the
Milwaukee County Power Plant. The adult female is Brinn, (b/r) 84/X, produced in 2012 at Gold Hoist cliff, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park in Lake County, Minnesota. She is back for a fifth year.

Presque Isle Power Plant
An unbanded adult male was spotted in the nest box on March 11. 

You can watch the peregrines on our live nest box webcams, which were upgraded this year to provide higher definition images as well as sound. Access the webcams on our YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/WeEnergiesVideos/featured

A peregrine falcon at Port Washington Generating Station's nest box.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Oak Creek Power Plant's fishing pier: a great place to drop a line

Oak Creek Power Plant's fishing pier extends into Lake Michigan to provide anglers a place to cast their lines. The pier is open daylight hours March 15 through Nov. 15 – weather permitting.

Although located on private We Energies property, the pier is open to the public for fishing and provides picnic tables, trash bins and access to a nearby public beach. Swimming, boat launching and fires are not allowed, but the beach welcomes walkers and dogs.

Al Kunda, maintenance planner – We Energies at the Oak Creek plant, uses Lake-Link’s Oak Creek Power Plant pier forum to update fishing enthusiasts on the pier’s status and closures. He noted the pier is subject to closures “at any time due to poor weather conditions, early snowfalls in fall, late snowfalls in spring and extreme high surf due to strong easterly winds,” making Lake-Link a good resource to check before taking up your tackle.

The Oak Creek Power Plant pier is a good spot to catch coho and chinook salmon, and brown, rainbow and lake trout, among other types of fish. The fish are attracted to the change in water current and the slightly elevated temperature of the water discharging from the power plant. On a clear day, fish can be seen swimming in the plant’s discharge channel.

Although we can’t promise a good catch, we can provide a scenic space to try your luck.

To access the pier, take East Oakwood Road from South Howell Avenue, turn onto Fishing Pier Road and then take North Bowl Road to park.

The Oak Creek fishing pier, located near our power plant, is open 
through Nov. 15.
Map to the fishing pier.

Fishing reports
DNR (check Milwaukee South)