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Mackinac Bridge Closure Complicates Mutual Aid Efforts

By |2018-09-27T10:13:17-04:00September 26th, 2018|MECA News|

Northern Michigan endured winds in excess of 50 miles-per-hour on Friday, Sept. 21. These powerful gusts took down trees and left thousands of co-op members without power. They also forced the Mackinac Bridge to partially close, which complicated restoration efforts.

Alger Delta Cooperative was hit hard. At the height of the event, about one-quarter of their system was without power (2,500 outages). The co-op reached out to Joe McElroy, safety director and mutual aid coordinator at MECA, for mutual aid assistance on Friday afternoon.

However, this mutual aid request couldn’t be handled the typical way.

Due to strong winds, the Mackinac Bridge was closed to all vehicles except for small passenger cars. As a rule, when winds reach 55 miles per hour, the bridge closes to high-profile vehicles such as trucks and trailers. Mutual aid crews were unable to cross to the upper peninsula with their equipment.

Help would have to come a different way.

Unsure of how long the bridge would be closed, McElroy put in a call to Wisconsin’s Restoration of Power in an Emergency (ROPE) program. Within a few hours, Wisconsin co-op crews were confirmed and headed out. Co-ops that provided assistance to Alger Delta include Pieper Power, Oakdale Electric Cooperative, Eau Claire Electric Cooperative, Bayfield Electric Cooperative, Oconto Electric Cooperative and Ontonagon Electric Cooperative.

Except for Ontonagon, the rest of the support came in from Wisconsin, underscoring the value of being part of the out-of-state mutual aid program.

Co-ops in the lower peninsula also provided aid to each other.

Co-op Outages Mutual Aid
Cherryland  2,500 Wolverine
Great Lakes Energy  17,000 Wolverine, GLE south
PIE&G  16,000 Wolverine, HomeWorks, Bay City, Thumb
Cloverland  12,000 Cherryland

As the weekend wrapped up, so did the outages.

“Thanks to all involved, including Midwest Energy and all of the municipals that stood ready to help if called upon,” said McElroy. “It’s the dedication of all involved that makes our mutual aid program work.”

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Thumb Completes RESAP Audit and Pole Top Rescue Training

By |2018-09-06T10:59:37-04:00September 6th, 2018|MECA News|

The last week of August included a very clear safety focus for Thumb Electric Cooperative (TEC). The co-op completed a Rural Electric Safety Achievement Program (RESAP) audit and provided life-saving Pole Top and Bucket Rescue Training for its operations employees.

“I’m proud of how they’re living up to the RESAP goal of continuous improvement,” said MECA Safety Director, Joe McElroy, commending TEC leadership and staff for their efforts.

Dallas Braun, General Manager at TEC, has positive things to say about the co-op’s involvement with the RESAP program, too. “RESAP is a great program that provides an ‘outside-looking-in’ perspective of the operation of our electric system,” he said. “The process results in a framework to prioritize and plan for continuous safety improvements.”

“There is no doubt this program has had a direct impact on positive safety improvements made at TEC over the past three years,” says Braun. “I expect the same results going forward. We are very fortunate to have MECA providing this program in Michigan.”

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Michigan Crews Spend Holiday Weekend Battling Storm Aftermath

By |2018-09-19T13:29:19-04:00September 6th, 2018|MECA News|

“If there’s going to be a big storm that causes widespread outages, you can bet it will probably happen over a holiday,” claims Joe McElroy, safety director and mutual aid coordinator at MECA.

Turns out he may be onto something.

That was certainly the case last week as a large-scale outage event took place over the Labor Day holiday. Storms raced through Michigan on Tuesday night, Aug. 28, leaving a wake of destruction behind them. The National Weather Service confirmed five tornados touched down, with winds up to 100 miles per hour.

The storms caused outages for all MECA member co-ops in the lower peninsula, but Great Lakes Energy was the hardest hit. The co-op restored power to more than 46,800 members affected by tornados, wind and rain. Thankfully, they didn’t have to face the task alone. Great Lakes Energy received mutual aid support from multiple co-ops (Alger Delta, Cherryland, HomeWorks and Wolverine) and municipalities (Bay City, Chelsea, Escanaba, Hart and Traverse City).

All together, Great Lakes Energy received help from 34 additional electric crews and 45 tree crews. The teams worked tirelessly all week long and through the holiday to restore power for all members. Restorations were completed by Tuesday, Sept. 4, which means some members were out of power for up to a week.

The damage was extensive,” said McElroy. “Several contractors said it was the worst they had ever seen.” Great Lakes Energy alone had over 364 broken poles, a new record the co-op doesn’t want to revisit.

Many other departments worked long days and nights, too, including dispatchers, member service reps, purchasing staff, vegetation management, IT, engineering and bird-dogs from many departments. Members were able to stay informed during the extended outage through the co-op’s website and Facebook page. GLE added over 800 new Facebook followers and fielded over 200 private messages through the social media platform during the course of the event.

Restoring power in this type of event requires a tremendous amount of team effort. As the next holiday rolls around, you can bet McElroy and the mutual aid partners will continue to monitor the weather closely, always prepared to spring into action.


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Wolverine Power Embarks on Extraordinary Transmission Upgrades

By |2018-09-13T10:53:44-04:00August 23rd, 2018|MECA News|

In July, the Wolverine Power Cooperative Board of Directors approved a five-year construction plan to rebuild 600 miles of transmission line—its most ambitious construction goal in the last half-century.

“This plan is the culmination of Wolverine’s member teams, Board of Directors, and staff, working together over a decade to develop the technical and financial capabilities needed to execute a work plan of this scale,” said Tim Martin, vice president of engineering and construction at Wolverine Power Cooperative. “We are privileged and proud to embark on this plan to invest nearly half a billion dollars into strengthening reliability, system monitoring, and opportunities for continued growth for our members.”

As part of its commitment to rebuild the entire 1,200-mile looped transmission network by 2023, Wolverine significantly upgraded much of the network over the past ten years. These upgrades include taller and stronger pole structures, essential conversions to 138 kV, and implementing fiber optic cable to improve system monitoring and security. As Wolverine enters 2019, the cooperative will embark on the largest portion of rebuilding and most ambitious single-year goal to-date—150 of the looped network’s remaining 600 transmission miles.

“We’re proud of our team’s work to improve our system’s reliability, and we look forward to completing this plan for the benefit of our members,” said Martin.

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Congressman Jack Bergman Visits Alpine Power Plant

By |2018-08-22T16:35:50-04:00August 22nd, 2018|MECA News|

On Monday, United States Congressman Jack Bergman visited Wolverine Power Cooperative’s state-of-the-art Alpine Power Plant to tour the facility and learn about the plant’s vital role for Wolverine’s members and Northern Michigan’s grid reliability.

The Alpine Power Plant natural gas facility, completed in 2016, provides more than 400 MW of peaking generation, as well as essential transmission support, for Wolverine’s members and Northern Michigan’s electric grid.

In addition to touring the facility, the Congressman was interested in discussing and learning more about renewable energy, the future of generation, battery storage, net metering, energy markets, as well as high energy prices and lack of adequate transmission in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

As a former pilot, the Congressman also had a keen interest in the operation of the plant’s turbines—which are very similar to jet engines.

Congressman Bergman represents constituents in Michigan’s 1st Congressional district, which is Michigan’s largest—encompassing the entire Upper Peninsula and 16 counties in the northern Lower Peninsula. Congressman Bergman represents more cooperative members than any other Michigan congressman, including members of Great Lakes Energy, Presque Isle Electric & Gas, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, Alger Delta Cooperative Electric Association, Ontonagon REA, and Cloverland Electric Cooperative.

Wolverine is grateful for the opportunity to host Congressman Bergman, and for his interest in learning more about Michigan’s electric cooperatives.

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MECA Conducts First-Of-Its-Kind Training Assessment

By |2018-02-12T14:47:16-05:00February 9th, 2018|MECA News|

MECA and its member co-ops are conducting a first-of-its-kind, statewide employee education and training assessment this month. Results will be used to develop an in-state training program to be hosted by MECA later this year.

“We’re very good at using data to measure almost everything we do in the energy industry,” says Doug Snitgen, MECA executive vice-president. “But when it comes to selecting employee education and training opportunities, it’s very difficult to quantify what will have the greatest collective impact.”

MECA has worked very closely with the education and training team at NRECA to develop and test an assessment process that will help identify the most relevant in-state training opportunities for co-op employees. The assessment is based on the NRECA Electric Cooperative Competency Model, which was designed to help co-ops align the talent of their employees in three broad categories: Core Competencies, Role-Specific Competencies, and Supervisory, Management and Leadership Competencies.

The Michigan assessment has been pilot tested with a group of Cherryland and HomeWorks employees, and is now ready for the bigger task of collecting statewide data. Each participating co-op will ask its employees to complete an anonymous, online survey, then MECA will analyze the results and work with NRECA to develop an in-state training program. The training will be similar to NRECA certificate programs that MECA has hosted in previous years, but customized to address the unique needs of Michigan’s electric co-ops.

“It’s been a fun project because it’s part science and part art,” says Snitgen. “It’ll help us create a comprehensive training needs ‘gap analysis’ that we’ve never had available before, but there are also a lot of creative ways to interpret the data.”

While the primary goal of the assessment is to determine statewide training needs, the same data could be used to determine needs for individual co-ops, departments or job roles.

Learn more about the NRECA Electric Cooperative Employee Competency Model in RE Magazine or at

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‘Weather Bomb’ Causes Widespread Outages In Upper Peninsula

By |2017-11-07T16:55:45-05:00November 7th, 2017|MECA News|

30-foot waves rolled across Lake Superior on Tuesday, October 24. Winds near the shoreline gusted to over 60 mph taking down trees and powerlines in over two dozen locations in Alger, Marquette and Schoolcraft counties.

The Upper Peninsula was hit with a weather bomb. A ‘weather bomb’ is an unofficial term for a rapidly intensifying storm that typically develops over the water when a warm and cold air mass clash. It’s characterized by a low-pressure system where the central barometric pressure drops at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. And the hurricane-force winds it produced were not good for Alger Delta’s electric system.

“The calls started to come in fast and furious on Tuesday morning about 5:30 a.m.,” said Tom Harrell, CEO.

“It was an all-hands-on-deck approach to fielding outage reports,” explained Harrell. By Tuesday evening, Members Services Representative Elizabeth Manninen had fielded 650 phone calls. Chief Financial Officer Amanda Seger had taken 250 calls herself. Staff was dedicated to supporting members on smarthub, too.

At the end of the day, a grand total of 3,500 Alger Delta members were left without power.

Alger Delta put in a call for mutual aid and received help on Wednesday from Great Lakes Energy, Wisconsin co-ops and on-site contractors who happened to be working on the system when the weather bomb exploded.

Working together, power was restored to most Alger Delta members by Friday afternoon.

This was the first outage event where facebook played a large role in communicating with members. Alger Delta staff, including Harrell himself, diligently provided updates and responded to member comments around the clock.

“People seemed to really appreciate it and it served as an effective tool for us,” said Harrell.

A big thank you to all the mutual aid crews who came out to help. This is yet another great example of co-ops working together.

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Great Lakes & Ontonagon Shine at Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards

By |2017-11-07T16:47:27-05:00October 31st, 2017|MECA News|

The Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards honors Michigan organizations and individuals for outstanding achievement in reducing energy waste. This year, MECA EO Collaborative members received awards for Best Project – Public for Ewen Trout Creek School District (Ontonagon) and Best Project – Agriculture for Friske Orchards (Great Lakes Energy).

Ewen Trout Creek is one of Michigan’s most rural school districts with only 205 students. Like many rural schools, their school building was deteriorating and the school administration was forced to divert scarce funds from education towards fixing the school. In 2015, voters approved a new $4.9 million bond referendum and the necessary upgrades, in conjunction with Ontonagon and MECA’s EO program, began. Ewen Trout schools installed new high-efficiency boilers, water heaters, and fan coil units as well as a new chiller and high-efficiency lighting. The project is estimated to save 33,500 Kwh of electricity on an annual basis.

Friske Orchards, south of Charlevoix, is known statewide for its apple cider and the wide array of fruits and vegetables grown on site. When owner Richard Friske noticed that his workers’ mobile homes needed considerable work, he decided to build new bunkhouses for his many seasonal workers. The new, all electric, housing units have Energy Star appliances and lighting, new air source heat pumps, insulation, and receive a good deal of their electricity from new solar panels. Friske Orchards expects to save approximately 44,000 Kwh of electricity per year.

A special “thank you” to Great Lakes and Ontonagon for their efforts, along with MECA EO Director Art Thayer and WECC for their direction and support in advancing the applications from both co-ops.


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Alger Delta Cooperative Electric Association Celebrates 80th Anniversary

By |2017-10-16T10:29:37-04:00October 16th, 2017|MECA News|

Alger Delta Cooperative Electric Association (Alger Delta) celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.

Alger Delta Electric is a proud member of WPPI Energy, a not-for-profit wholesale energy provider and joint action agency. The co-op’s milestone anniversary was recognized at an awards luncheon during WPPI Energy’s annual meeting in September. Alger Delta’s CEO Tom Harrell, Directors Mike Lawless (District 3, Grand Marais) and Darryl Small (District 1, Big Bay) accepted a token of esteem on behalf of the co-op.

“I’d like to extend my congratulations and appreciation to Alger Delta for 80 years of service,” said Mike Peters, president and CEO of WPPI Energy.

Alger Delta was founded in 1937 and is one of about 900 not-for-profit electric co-ops in the U.S. It now serves approximately 10,000 members in six counties in the central Upper Peninsula.

Over the years, the co-op has contributed to the quality of life in the central Upper Peninsula by providing affordable and reliable electric service to homes, businesses and recreational properties. Alger Delta also supports charities and organizations that provide service and critical support to its members throughout its service territory including the YMCA, the Salvation Army, Honor Flight, Toys-for-Tots, sports programs, food pantries and others.

“Anniversaries are a great time to reflect both on what has brought us to this point and where we want to go in the future,” said Harrell.

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Michigan utility lineworkers begin next chapter of training

By |2017-10-04T16:23:27-04:00October 3rd, 2017|MECA News|

When Wolverine Power Cooperative (Wolverine) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 876 (IBEW Local 876) announced a partnership in May to continue utility linemen training in the state of Michigan, their partnership marked the beginning of the new Joint Michigan Apprentice Program (JMAP). The program’s inaugural class began in September, welcoming 61 apprentices from 28 Michigan utilities.

The new program features smaller, segmented classroom, training labs, and field training at a single location in Northern Michigan—Wolverine Power Cooperative’s Training Center in Lake City, Mich., located near Wolverine’s headquarters in Cadillac, Mich. In addition, Wolverine partnered with the Northwest Lineman College (NLC), an industry-leading educational institution that provides pre-apprentice, apprentice and journey-level training, to provide related instruction.

To construct the program’s climbing yard in time for classes, 32 workers from five cooperatives (Cherryland Electric Cooperative, Great Lakes Energy, HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op, Wolverine Power Cooperative) worked diligently to complete the 73-pole climbing yard in just eight days—two days less than initially planned and four times less than a project of this scale typically takes to complete.

The program has received positive initial feedback from instructors and apprentices alike, noting a well-run program and facility, knowledgeable instructors, and an appreciation for classroom and field training to be conducted at a single site.

With the first session of training successfully completed, Wolverine, IBEW Local 876, and NLC are all excited for the future success of JMAP and the next generation of lineworkers it will shape.

Enrollment for JMAP is now open for the next session of classes to be held in Spring 2018. Michigan utilities interested in participating can learn more by visiting

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