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For the bees: ATC system protection engineer takes up hobby beekeeping with family

Tim Schmidt, ATC senior system protection engineer, and his son check on a honey bee hive.

Tim Schmidt spends his days at American Transmission Co. helping keep the lights on for millions of people by ensuring electric reliability of the transmission grid as a senior system protection engineer.

He spends many of his weekends monitoring and ensuring the success of a completely different type of system – honey bee hives.

Schmidt began toying with the idea of becoming a hobby beekeeper five years ago. He and his family have always been environmentally conscious. They built their home in Brown County, Wis. with solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling. They planted wildflowers across much of their two acres.

“It just made sense that our wildflowers would do better if they had local pollination,” said Schmidt. “I’m always interested in being involved with my kids and having it as a learning experience. It combined our mindset of being green with our connection to nature.”

“People Thought I was Nuts”

After a considerable amount of research, Schmidt decided to start his first hive. Now, five years later, he has five hives and is well on his way to his goal of maintaining 12 hives.

Schmidt says it’s a hobby many people don’t understand at first.

“People thought I was nuts. They said, ‘You want to have an insect that can sting you?’ … When you first talk to somebody about bees, they think of the physical aspects and getting stung. But it’s not the honey bees that typically go after a person; it’s hornets and wasps. In general, honey bees will leave you alone unless you disturb their nest.”

Schmidt describes his role of beekeeper as a type of partnership with the queen bee, which ensures the health and viability of the hive.

“In the springtime, you’re making sure that the queen is doing her job and that she’s healthy,” said Schmidt. “You’re looking at several things within a hive as indicators of that queen, and you’re trying to check on it to see how she’s doing.”

Looking Forward to Spring

At this time of the year, Schmidt’s hives are quiet. The honey bees are living off the supply of honey they stocked away to make it through the winter. Three of his five hives have headcounts of roughly 8,000 bees. But soon, that will change.

As spring approaches and summer arrives, Schmidt says the hives will become much more active. The queen will begin laying more eggs, and the female worker bees will travel from flower to flower, collecting pollen. That pollen serves as the honey bees’ main protein source as they turn nectar and other enzymes into honey. At their peak over the summer, Schmidt hopes each hive will have around 60,000 – 80,000 bees.

After a healthy and productive year for the hive, Schmidt can begin collecting honey in the fall. He makes sure to leave enough behind for his bees to survive each winter.

He said beekeeping is something his entire family enjoys together, especially with his daughter, 9, and son, 7.

“They’re out there in their own beekeeping equipment, sticking their nose in the hive saying ‘Hey, what’s that? Hey, what’s that? Hey, Dad, look there’s the queen!’ They’ve picked up on those small things,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt says he’s looking forward to many more years of connecting to nature through beekeeping with his family as his children grow.

“I’m just at the beginning,” he said.

Planting for Pollinators

ATC works with our environmental contractors to plant seed mixes in the rights-of-way that generate vegetation beneficial to many species of bees, butterflies and birds. Low-growing perennials and grasses, such as those planted to attract pollinators, can grow and thrive within transmission line rights-of-way.

ATC is also helping people learn how to help pollinators in their own yards. Sustainable rights-of-way with compatible plant communities can help limit ATC’s long-term vegetation management program, which is needed to keep transmission lines safe and reliable.

In partnership with horticulturist and gardening expert Melinda Myers, American Transmission Co. has put together two guides to identify vegetation that will help attract pollinators like Schmidt’s bees. You can view or print the GrowSmart® Planting Guide and the GrowSmart® Pollinator Guide to learn more.

Aerial tree trimming planned for southwest Wisconsin area

Helicopter, air saw to be used along electric transmission line

MADISON, Wis. – Crews are planning to use a helicopter and heavy-duty air saw beginning this week to trim trees along an existing 69,000-volt transmission line from the Boscobel to the Wauzeka, Wis., area.

American Transmission Co. has contracted with Aerial Solutions, Inc. to manage vegetation growth along its transmission line corridors. The helicopters used by Aerial Solutions are equipped with heavy-duty air saws and rotary blades suspended on a 90- to 100-foot vertical boom.

When compared to the work of ground-based crews, the aerial saw has been highly efficient. “Typically it takes ground crews several days to accomplish what an aerial saw crew can in a few hours,” said Joe Benzschawel, ATC vegetation management specialist. “Since the work is weather-dependent, it could take one week for the aerial saw to complete the vegetation maintenance in this area.”

Managing the growth of trees and other vegetation near high-voltage transmission lines is important to help ensure public safety and electric system reliability. ATC performs routine vegetation management on its 9,540 miles of transmission lines in five-year cycles.

Note to editors: A map of the planned aerial saw work is available here. Video footage of similar vegetation management work is on our YouTube page.

 

ATC employees support local STEM programs through volunteer day

American Transmission Co. celebrated its recent commendation as one of the Best Workplaces for Giving Back with a company-wide volunteer day Friday. Last week, Great Place to Work and Fortune Magazine named ATC to their list of Best Workplaces for Giving Back for the second year in a row.

Employees at each ATC office worked on projects Friday that support local schools’ Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs. ATC employees will also volunteer their time at the schools in the coming months. The volunteer day wrapped up a week of company-wide goal setting and discussions surrounding ATC’s Mission, Vision and Values.

Pewaukee:

Employees helped assemble wood tower kits for Fairview elementary students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Students will use the kits to explore engineering concepts and test the towers for strength.

Employees helped test model solar cars and provided feedback to teachers at Milwaukee Academy of Science.

Employees learned about the STEM projects students at Waukesha South Engineering Academy are working on and brainstormed more projects to support their curriculum.

Madison:

Employees helped eighth grade engineering students at River Bluff Middle School in Stoughton, Wis. with a project to create a model of a simple transformer.

Cottage Grove:

Employees helped test model solar cars and taught about soil resistivity at Rome Corners Intermediate School in Oregon, Wis.

De Pere:

Employees helped test a Solar Home Lab project for Ashwaubenon High School students.

Kingsford:

Employees tested model solar cars for Kingsford Middle School. A group will later visit the school to speak with seventh and eighth grade students about ATC and careers in STEM.

St. Ignace:

ATC made a donation to support the La Salle High School robotics and engineering program.

Aerial tree trimming planned for central Wisconsin

Helicopter, air saw to be used along transmission line

PEWAUKEE, Wis. – A helicopter and heavy-duty air saw will be used this week and continue through mid-March to trim trees along two 345,000-volt lines from Stevens Point to Appleton, as well as along a 138-kV line in Wood and Juneau counties.

American Transmission Co. has contracted with Aerial Solutions, Inc. to manage vegetation growth along its transmission line corridors. This work will be accomplished using an aerial power saw with rotary blades that is suspended from a helicopter on a 90-foot vertical boom.

The aerial saw has been highly efficient when compared to the work of ground-based crews. “It takes just a few hours for an aerial saw to complete what typically takes ground crews several days to accomplish,” said Adam Helminiak, ATC senior vegetation management specialist. “However, the aerial work is weather-dependent and it could take up to several weeks for the saw to complete the vegetation maintenance along the transmission lines.”

Managing the growth of trees and other vegetation near high-voltage transmission lines is important to help ensure public safety and electric system reliability. ATC performs routine vegetation management on its 9,540 miles of transmission lines in five-year cycles.

Note to editors: Landowners in proximity to the transmission lines scheduled for this work have been notified of the work via mail. Maps indicating the planned aerial saw work can be found on our website. Work on section WERWL41 is scheduled first, followed by work on NAPL71 and X-43. Video footage of similar vegetation management work can be found on our YouTube page.

American Transmission Co. is one of the country’s best workplaces for giving back

PEWAUKEE, Wis. – American Transmission Co. has been named one of the Best Workplaces for Giving Back for the second consecutive year by Great Place to Work and Fortune.

The national list is based on more than 350,000 surveys of employees across a range of industries, as well as their organizations’ charitable programs and giving.

“As a company, we care about the communities we serve, and our employees are generous with their time and money,” said ATC President and CEO Mike Rowe. “Last year, our employees logged almost 19,000 volunteer hours to help organizations that are important to them. They also have increased their pledges to United Way for seven consecutive years.” In addition, the company donated $690,000 to benefit more than 400 organizations providing important services to local communities last year.

Great Place to Work’s research found that employees who are strongly connected to their organization’s positive influence on the community have 4 to 11 times the productivity, commitment, brand ambassadorship and overall work experience as their peers. As a result, people at winning workplaces report more pride in their employers and experience deeper meaning in their day-to-day work.

“The Best Workplaces for Giving Back are accomplishing something greater than the sum of their contributions to worthy causes. They also offer employees a sense they’re part of something bigger that’s making a difference in the world,” said Chinwe Onyeagoro, president of Great Place to Work.

The Best Workplaces for Giving Back is one of a series of rankings by Great Place to Work and Fortune based on employee survey feedback from Great Place to Work–Certified™ organizations.

ATC also ranked on the 2016 lists for Best Medium Workplaces and Best Workplaces to Retire From by Great Place to Work and Fortune. Click here for ATC’s company profile.

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About Great Place to Work

Great Place to Work is the global authority on high-trust, high-performance workplace cultures. Through proprietary assessment tools, advisory services, and certification programs, including Best Workplaces lists and workplace reviews, Great Place to Work provides the benchmarks, framework and expertise needed to create, sustain and recognize outstanding workplace cultures. In the United States, Great Place to Work produces the annual Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For®” and a series of Great Place to Work Best Workplaces lists, including lists for Millennials, Women, Diversity, Small and Medium Companies and over a half dozen different industries.

Follow Great Place to Work online at www.greatplacetowork.com and on Twitter at @GPTW_US. When sharing on social media about the 2017 Best Workplaces for Giving Back, please use the hashtag: #bestworkplaces.

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