Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Squawk the Vote: Help us name falcon chicks after Milwaukee sports legends

Milwaukee – Milwaukee’s sports legends have been honored with all-star games, MVPs, even the hall of fame – but this is a first. Some past and present Bucks and Brewers players will have a peregrine falcon chick named after them, and you get to pick the winners.

Starting today and running through Friday, May 17, you can vote on your favorite names. From The Beak Freak and The Little O to Rockin’ Robin and Yeli, the top vote-getters will be used to name the falcon chicks born this spring at the We Energies Oak Creek and Valley power plants.

More than a dozen eggs have been laid at our power plants this year, and if all goes well, the first chicks should start hatching in early May. Right now, the proud parents are taking turns incubating the eggs.

Don’t wait. Vote early and often and help your favorite star player get this high-flying honor.

When you’re done voting, you can check out our high-definition webcams at all of the nest sites, streaming 24/7 on our website.

We Energies is part of a statewide effort to restore the peregrine falcon population. Since our first successful nest box in 1997, 273 peregrine falcons have hatched at We Energies facilities.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Falcons find their way to new home

When it comes to our peregrine falcon program, we’ve learned to expect the unexpected. When you’re dealing with wild animals, anything can happen. For almost a year now, we’ve been crossing our fingers a falcon named “PBR” and his mate would find a new nest box we helped to place. There was no guarantee. But now we’re happy to report: The falcons have landed.
Peregrine manager Greg Septon and PBR.
PBR and his mate, a female without a tracking band, used to nest at Pleasant Prairie Power Plant. When the nest box was closed last year, Greg Septon, our peregrine manager, was already searching to identify a potential replacement site nearby.

Falcons are naturally drawn to cliffs and tall buildings along the water. After reading an article about our search, Pat Hicks, plant manager at Ardent Mills in Kenosha, knew his flour mill would be the perfect falcon habitat. Septon quickly agreed. It’s not too far from the power plant, and it’s more than 100 feet tall. Hicks and Septon installed a nest box there over the summer, crossed their fingers and started to wait.

After a long winter, their patience was rewarded. PBR and his mate have moved to the new site — exactly as we had hoped. When Septon checked on the new nest box in April, he even found four freshly laid eggs. And if all goes well, the falcons will raise another brood of young this year in their new home.

It’s thrilling for Septon, who founded the state’s peregrine recovery effort. The Pleasant Prairie nest box was one of the first nest box sites statewide, and more falcons were born there than at any other We Energies site. Now we know that legacy will continue – just a few miles away.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Batter up! 8,000 kids take a swing at energy safety during Brewers Weather Day

We Energies safety experts were a hit during the CBS 58 Milwaukee Brewers Weather Day at Miller Park April 17. Nearly 8,000 school-aged children from throughout Wisconsin and Illinois received valuable information about staying safe around energy equipment – especially during severe weather.

The triple play combination of Mark Schmidt, trainer in electric operations; John Feider, manager in natural gas operations; and Andrew LaTona, supervisor in damage prevention, touched all the bases when it came to imparting the importance of staying safe above and below ground, no matter the weather conditions. 

And what would a trip to the ballpark be without a hot dog? On this day, however, the favorite ballpark food provided a valuable lesson instead of a tasty treat.

Schmidt picked up a hot dog with insulated tongs and explained the similarities it has to people: “Both have water, salt and meat.” He then touched the hot dog to live wires – cooking it from the inside out within seconds. The visibly astonished students quickly realized the importance of avoiding electric wires and equipment.

Schmidt’s demonstration took place on a small-scale model of a street with homes, businesses, cars and people to show how each might come into contact with power equipment.

Students examined power line cables, connected fuses and learned from our employees what to do if severe weather causes a power outage or downed power lines.

Other electric operation employees talked to the students about how our employees stay safe when they are restoring power after a storm. The kids were then allowed to explore and try on safety equipment that line mechanics use on a daily basis.

Feider made a pitch for natural gas safety during his time with the students, teaching them that natural gas is colorless and odorless until we add an odorant similar to rotten eggs or sulfur, which helps detect leaks. They learned that if they smell that odor, they need to leave the area immediately and then call for help. 

During LaTona’s turn at bat, students were surprised to learn that any digging in their backyards, whether for a garden, a fire pit or a post for a basketball hoop, can damage underground equipment, which can be dangerous or even deadly.

They heard that calling 811 at least three days before digging projects can prevent accidents from happening. 

Students left so much brighter about energy safety, they had to wear shades – which we provided as a reminder about the lessons they learned that will keep them and their families safe at home.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

What to expect when you're egg-specting

Peregrine falcon nesting season is an exciting time. Over a dozen eggs have been laid at our power plants this year, and if all goes well, the first chicks should start to hatch in early May. Right now, the parents are taking turn incubating the eggs. Greg Septon, our peregrine manager, gave us a rundown of what to expect at each nest box:

Oak Creek Power Plant

Eurus and Michael are incubating four eggs. Eurus laid her first egg in late March. They’re expected to hatch between May 4 and 6.

Valley Power Plant

Hercules and his mate, an unbanded female, are incubating three eggs at our Milwaukee nest box. They’re expected to hatch between May 7 and 9.

Port Washington Generating Station

Beasley and Brinn are incubating three eggs. Brinn laid four, but unfortunately, one broke. The remaining eggs are expected to hatch between May 4 and 6.

Weston Power Plant

Rosalee and Sheldon are incubating four eggs at the Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) nest box in Rothschild. They’re expected to hatch between May 9 and 12.

WPS Building

This is a new site, and there aren’t any eggs this year. Septon suspects it’s only a matter of time until falcons discover the nest box and decide to call it home. 

You can check out our high-definition webcams at all five nest boxes. We are streaming 24/7 on our website. While you’re there, you also can learn more about our efforts to restore the peregrine falcon population. Since our first successful nest box in 1997, 273 peregrine falcons have hatched at We Energies facilities.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Employees help build Milwaukee home

A group of our employees put their hard hats and tools to a different use. Last week, dozens of employees volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to help frame a house on Milwaukee’s north side. When completed, the home’s keys and mortgage will be handed over to a family in need of safe, affordable housing.

“Our employees are using their time and their talents to help Habitat for Humanity build homes to help renew this neighborhood and give back to our community,” said Kevin Fletcher, chief executive officer – WEC Energy Group. “I’m very proud that our guys and gals are doing such a wonderful job.”

We Energies is a longtime supporter of Habitat for Humanity. In fact, our crews have built a strong reputation with Habitat for Humanity leaders.

“We Energies is one of my favorite groups to come out ever. They always bring a solid crew,” said Rachel Sirriani, Habitat for Humanity construction supervisor. “Whether it’s their first time or a returner, they always work hard and get stuff done.”

That’s because our employees take tremendous pride in their work. Don Bousson, an account manager, jumped at the opportunity to help make a difference. 

“I think it’s going to change a neighborhood that’s sort of been run down in the past, and give families a fresh chance in a safe area. It’s great to be out here with all these other volunteers in this neighborhood,” he said.

The house is part of Habitat for Humanity’s Midtown 100 project. Their goal is to build 65 new homes and repair and rehab 35 more by 2020.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Customers urged to stay connected

We Energies is urging customers who are behind on their energy bills to get caught up before the end of the winter heating moratorium on April 15. Customers who owe a significant amount of money are at risk of disconnection starting the third week of April.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be using phone calls and bill inserts to alert affected customers. Please keep in mind, disconnection is always a last resort. 

We encourage any customers who are behind on their bills to visit our website or call our customer care center as soon as possible at 800-842-4565. Our representatives can explain some of the options available, including a flexible payment plan or minimum payment option. We also offer budget billing, which spreads energy expenses more evenly over 12 months.

In addition, some customers 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.

Scam Alert

Unfortunately, scammers have been known to prey on customers this time of year. Often, they’ll demand immediate payment via prepaid debit card. We will never do that. Customers who receive a suspicious phone call should hang up and contact us directly to verify the status of their account. We’ve posted more information about common scams on our website.