Friday, July 24, 2015

Power outage caused by unexpected object

Twitter follower alerted us.
Two rounds of storms caused power outages to more than 26,000 customers in our service area over the weekend.

We often see tree branches come in contact with our equipment and cause outages. Other unusual debris, however, also can become entangled in our wires.

In the town of Genesee, Wisconsin, one of our Twitter followers alerted our crews to a trampoline that was entangled in wires. 

Troubleshooter Scott Kirchoff was the first to arrive on scene. “You never know what’s going to happen when you come into work. It was something you don’t see every day,” said Kirchoff. 

Witnesses told our crews the trampoline flew into the air, sailed over a farm house, soared across the highway and then landed on our wires. As with any good stories, witnesses had different claims of how far up in the air the
trampoline reached. Most answered between 50 and 100 feet. 

Trampoline on wires in Genesee.
The incident caused 70 customers to lose power.

Kirchoff assessed the situation and decided he needed a crew with specialized equipment to help with the situation. He also called local authorities to help with traffic control as many people were stopping to look at the strange sight.

The trampoline was still rocking back and forth on the wires when Line Mechanic Dart Ellsworth arrived in his bucket truck.

Ellsworth said, “It was definitely interesting. It was a challenging project, but we were able to remove it safely. “

Dave Megna, vice president – Wisconsin system operations, says all sorts of objects, such as aluminum lawn furniture, have been tossed around into our wires during storms.

“This incident is a good reminder to secure objects that can easily fly around during high winds,” said Megna.

This incident did not cause downed lines, but if you come across downed power lines, or anything touching those lines, stay at least 25 feet away and call 911 or 800-662-4797.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Restoring service after your power goes out

Service restoration can take seconds, minutes, hours 
or days, depending on damage severity and scope.
Nobody wants to be without electric power, but power can go out at any time for a number of reasons –  severe weather, faulty equipment, fallen trees and branches, animal contact, accidents and other incidents.

If your power goes out, call 800-662-4797 to report it. Calls help pinpoint outages. Also, if you see a wire down or something unusual, such as a flash, report that, too.

Storm preparation and response

If we know storms are coming, we anticipate where they may strike and mobilize our repair crews to respond quickly. When damage is widespread, we bring in additional crews from our other areas that may not be affected by the storms. Sometimes, storms may affect our entire service area. In such situations, we have contractors that assist us. We also have mutual assistance agreements with neighboring utilities.

Crews work around the clock until service is restored to all customers; however, for safety reasons, crews only work as many as 16 hours in a 24-hour period. After a required 8-hour break for sleep, crews continue their work, if needed. Typically, we use rotations so some crews always are working while others are resting.

Crews often are hampered by difficult conditions. Roadways may be compromised by flooding, ice, snow or fallen trees and other debris, making it difficult or impossible to get to certain sites where repair work is needed. Working in severe cold, wind as well as snow and rain also can slow things down.

Restoration times
Damaged service mast.

Power outages may last seconds, minutes, hours or even days, depending on the severity of damage and how widespread the damage may be. Outages that last just seconds or minutes often are caused by wildlife, weather or vegetation contacting our electric lines and sometimes by contractors digging into our underground wires. Many times, our system can quickly reset itself. You may experience some blinking clocks, but your power returns with little delay. At other times, damage requires a crew to find and fix the cause of the outage.

If the problem is a pole that is knocked down or broken, a new pole can be set in an hour or two, and the wires restrung in two or three hours – if the location is easily accessible. In places with more difficult access, the process can take twice as long. Another factor is how many wires are on a pole. More wires mean more work and more time.

Underground wires have problems less frequently, but when problems occur, they are more difficult to locate and take longer to repair.

Sometimes, we cannot restore service because of damage to the service mast at your home or business. In such cases, you would need to contact an electrician to replace or repair that equipment before we can reconnect. If you see a situation similar to the adjacent picture, you should contact an electrician as soon as possible.

Prioritizing response to widespread outages

When we get numerous outages at the same time, we prioritize our response.
  • First, we address situations that are life-threatening or hazardous, such as a power line on a street. 
  • After such situations are addressed, we begin the restoration process by making equipment repairs that are causing outages to the greatest number of customers, typically in this order:
    • Transmission lines
    • Substations
    • Main distribution lines
    • Secondary lines to neighborhoods 
    • Service lines to individual homes and businesses.
Minimizing outages

To reduce potential outages, we evaluate our system annually to identify areas that experience the most problems and to take steps to improve reliability. The solutions may be equipment upgrades, additional tree trimming or other protective measures.

Be prepared

Because an outage can occur at any time, we always are ready to respond. We don’t want you to be without power any more than you do. But outages do occur, and we recommend that you be prepared:

Outage safety tips

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

We Energies sponsors Habitat house

The Habitat project is on North 38th Street in Milwaukee.
This week we're taking part in a blitz build, a one-week opportunity to frame an entire house with Habitat for Humanity. We are sponsoring the construction of a Habitat home on North 38th Street in Milwaukee.

Customer Service Supervisor Mekisha Linton 
being interviewed by WTMJ-4.
Kevin Fletcher, executive vice president of customer service and customer operations, was among those helping out Wednesday. “We believe in Habitat’s mission to build stronger communities, and it’s a privilege to roll up our sleeves and work alongside such a dedicated Habitat crew,” said Fletcher. 

Mekisha Linton, a customer service supervisor, also helped out. “I’ve done a few of these builds with our company teams, and I love giving back to my community,” said Linton. “It’s great to help people realize the dream of home ownership.” 

Executive Vice President Kevin Fletcher.
We are a longtime supporter of Habitat for Humanity. Milwaukee Habitat is a nonprofit organization that seeks to provide families with simple, decent and affordable homes. The organization has built more than 500 homes and rehabbed more than 250 homes throughout Milwaukee to encourage the unity and diversity of its residents.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Peregrine falcon Class of 2015

It was another banner year for the company’s peregrine falcon program. A total of 16 chicks were born at company power plants, and two “adopted” chicks were placed at one of our sites.

Here’s the rundown from all six company nest boxes:

Pleasant Prairie Power Plant
Olivia and PBR laid four eggs between March 26 and April 1. Only two of their eggs hatched. Sharkie and Thunder Claw were named and banded on May 28. Third graders from Stocker Elementary School in Kenosha attended the banding and named the chicks.

Oak Creek Power Plant
Eclipse and Scott laid four eggs between March 27 and April 3. Unfortunately, none of the eggs hatched. They were left unprotected while mom and dad battled an intruding falcon who tried taking over the site. But Eclipse and Scott still got to care for two young. Peregrine Manager Greg Septon transplanted two chicks from another site to Oak Creek after their dad was found injured and unable to help care for the chicks. Foster and Wheeler were named by power plant employees when they were banded on May 28.

Port Washington Generating Station
Brinn and Ives laid four eggs between March 28 and April 4. All four eggs hatched, and the young were banded on June 3. Veterans from the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight program and employees’ families attended the banding and named the chicks – Norman, Spikey, Suzie and LoriAnn.

Valley Power Plant
Hercules and an unbanded female laid four eggs between March 27 and April 3. All four eggs hatched, and the young were banded on June 1. Fifth graders from Carollton Elementary School in Oak Creek attended the banding and named the chicks after gases from the period table – Argon, Radon, Xenon and Krypton.

Milwaukee County Power Plant
A banded female from Ohio and Asa laid four eggs between April 14 and 21. Three of the eggs hatched, and the young were banded on June 16. The chicks were named Artemis, Busby and Murdock.

Presque Isle Power Plant
Maya Angelou and an unbanded male laid three eggs between April 15 and 21. All three eggs hatched, and the young were banded on June 14. Plant employees and their families attended the banding and named the chicks – Wompus, Seppie and Spencer.

More than 200 peregrine falcons have been born at We Energies power plants. Our company was one of the first to get involved in Wisconsin’s peregrine falcon recovery effort. Although much progress has been made, the peregrine remains listed as an endangered species in both Wisconsin and Michigan.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Crew assists osprey banding in Fox Valley

Line mechanics use a bucket truck to access 
the nest.
We have a strong, deep-rooted belief that we have a responsibility to our environment, especially to threatened and endangered birds in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Our most famous birds, the peregrine falcons, can be viewed on live webcams from the first egg laid to when they first take flight. However, we also assist the lesser-known ospreys in growing their populations in our service territory.

Ospreys are large raptors that are listed as a “special concern” in Wisconsin. Osprey populations in Wisconsin declined from the 1950s to early 1970s after a loss of natural nesting habitats of trees along lakeshores. Special concern means that although the animal may not be endangered or threatened, a unique or highly specific habitat may be needed to help it survive.

Ospreys build nests in high structures such as tall trees near water, but a decline of such trees is making another location attractive for the birds – transmission power line towers. The problem is that sticks can fall from the 200-pound nests, causing service interruptions, and the birds could be electrocuted. Over the years, we have been constructing nest structures near our poles and transferring nests to the much higher and safer structures. In Wisconsin, more that 80 percent of the osprey population nests on artificial structures and platforms, most of which are built by utility companies.

Recently, we participated in a banding to identify and track some osprey chicks in Weyauwega and New London. Line mechanics Justin Stanke and Mark Rathje used a bucket truck to access the nests. In New London, we found three chicks in Memorial Park. Stanke and Rathje carefully retrieved them from the nest and carried them to the ground to be weighed and banded. Banding helps keep track of their wintering locations as well as their longevity. Most ospreys winter in Central and South America

“These bandings just make my year,” said Patricia Fisher, owner of the Feather Wildlife Rehab/Education Center in New London, who coordinates the bandings.

Doc Musekamp holds an osprey during banding.
Local volunteers with Fisher’s organization obtain federal bird banding permits to conduct the bandings. This year, Fisher obtained color bands that are easier to identify when birds are in the air. The bands have special meaning to Fisher as they were purchased in the memory of her granddaughter who passed away in a car accident a few years ago.

Those watching the banding were excited and mesmerized by the chicks. Doc Musekamp from our Appleton office was able to hold a bird during the process.

“It was an overall amazing experience to just feel them in your hands. This really is a neat collaboration that We Energies supports,” said Musekamp.

More about our biodiversity initiative

Feather Wildlife Rehab/Education Center

Appleton Post Crescent story

WLUK Fox11 video

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

EEI honors We Energies for Supplier Diversity Initiative

Our Supplier Diversity Initiative (SDI) has been recognized by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) for creative efforts to promote a diverse supplier base. We received EEI’s 2015 Supplier Diversity Innovation Award, along with Arizona Public Service Company (APS).

“EEI applauds APS and We Energies for their innovative ideas and new ways of doing business to advance and increase supplier diversity,” said EEI President Tom Kuhn.

Since 2002, the company’s SDI spending has increased 966 percent by using innovative approaches to build meaningful relationships with certified diverse businesses.

As part of the annual budget planning process, each internal business unit identifies contracts that will expire and other business opportunities for minority-owned and women-owned businesses. Also, supply chain buyers are required to conduct several matchmaker meetings per year with certified diverse businesses.

“From match-maker meetings to department-specific goals, we are committed to building relationships with diverse companies,” said Jerry Fulmer, WEC Energy Group vice president – supplier diversity. “By using innovative techniques, our Supplier Diversity Initiative has grown exponentially.”

We Energies is a WEC Energy Group company.

News release: EEI names 2015 Supplier Diversity Award winners