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.