By Abby Bell
Cloverland Electric’s generation team has adopted new data-driven strategies for increasing efficiency and ensuring infrastructure remains stable for generations to come. Under the direction of chief operations officer, Pat Frazier, the generation leadership team consists of project manager, Scott Ellis, hydro plant manager, Michael Panik, regulatory affairs and compliance specialist, Cory Wilson and director of generation, Roger Line.
Scott Ellis – project manager
Starting as a hydro plant repairmen helper nearly 15 years ago, and later as hydro plant manager, Ellis was the ideal candidate for the cooperative’s new project manager role. For four years, Ellis managed a team of 14 hydro plant employees, daily plant operations and contractors for hydro plant and power canal maintenance. The cooperative created a streamlined project manager role after the Barr engineering study results in 2021. The engineering study identified areas along the entire length of the canal that need stabilization. The canal has received patches in the past, but it now requires a programmed, holistic plan to fix entire sections based on higher levels of risk. Implementing a strategic maintenance plan ensures the longevity and efficiency of the two and ¼ mile-long power canal, which provides water supply for the cooperative’s 74-turbine hydro plant.
Ellis previously handled all day-to-day plant operations while also coordinating contractors for maintenance projects. Ellis is now entirely focused on ensuring the cooperative’s infrastructure investments, including power canal repairs, are completed on time and within budget. As project manager, he strengthens communications between contractors and cooperative divisions – ultimately safeguarding the cooperative’s high-dollar infrastructure investment.
“This role brings a new group of challenges, but I enjoy focusing on projects more in-depth than before,” Ellis states. “The focused role is better for the cooperative and our contractors.”
Canal work will begin in Spring 2023, primarily concentrated between Bingham and Ashmun streets.
Michael Panik – hydro plant manager
Panik joined the cooperative in October 2022 as its new hydro plant manager following Ellis’s move to the project manager role. Bringing 20 years of experience from the US Army Corps of Engineers, Panik is uniquely qualified to manage the 121-year-old historic hydro plant. Panik’s role is focused on daily plant operations and management of its 14-person team.
In his first five months, Panik learned plant operations and implemented the cooperative’s goals for increased generation efficiency. Ultimately, Panik describes the primary goal of his role as ensuring employees have the tools needed to keep the plant running each day.
“We have a great team in the plant,” Panik states. “I enjoy supporting them and making sure they have the tools needed to do their jobs safely and efficiently.”
Cory Wilson – regulatory affairs and compliance specialist
Wilson has served the cooperative for 13 years in various roles and now serves as regulatory affairs and compliance specialist in the generation division. Wilson tracks and files a wide range of regulatory requirements for the cooperative, such as emissions filings with the Environmental Protective Agency and Michigan Air Quality Division. He manages both daily and monthly tracking of the cooperative’s load and generation data submissions to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). Among other duties, Wilson coordinates the cooperative’s insurance coverage and ensures compliance with the Michigan Public Service Commission. Wilson’s attention to detail and focus are valuable assets as Cloverland navigates complex regulatory requirements of the energy industry.
“The utility industry is highly regulated, which means we follow many standards and file various reports to regulatory agencies related to our performance across all areas of the cooperative,” states Wilson. “We have a dedicated and experienced team at Cloverland, and we all work well together to not only meet those standards but find ways to exceed them by collaborating to improve our current policies and procedures.”
Roger Line – Director of Generation
Over his 25 years of service at the cooperative, Line has experienced a variety of generation roles. He started as a hydro plant repairmen helper and now serves as director of generation at the cooperative. Line oversees generation operations at the cooperative and all employees that work in the generation department, including Wilson, Ellis and Panik.
Line describes his favorite part of the job as working with other cooperative employees to increase process efficiency and provide mentorship opportunities for those taking on leadership roles.
“It’s very rewarding work,” Line states. “I Enjoy contributing to our cooperative in every way I can by using my experience gained by progressing through my different roles.”
Cloverland has recently increased its focus on applying software tools and internal staff talent to help in the planning and operations of its power supply assets. To jump-start this focus, a power supply team has been formed, including Frazier, Line, Ellis, Panik and senior accountant, Kyle Stabile. The power supply team has adopted both internal and external programs to coordinate demand management of its generation, ultimately saving money for the cooperative and its members.
Stabile enhanced an internal program to account for historical data inputs such as weather, load demands and seasonal variations. An external program was adopted using the same data inputs whose results are generated using a machine learning algorithm. The programs forecast hourly energy load demands of Wisconsin Electric Corporation (WEC). WEC supplies power and energy to Cloverland with a major price factor being Cloverland’s peak hourly load demand at the time of WEC’s peak hourly load demand.
The team meets each weekday to determine the projected forecast for the upcoming day, monitoring data such as wind factor, temperature, day, time and weather forecasts. During the peak forecast timeframe, the generation team ensures all hydro turbines and diesel generators are operating at maximum capability – this strategy ensures Cloverland’s hourly peak load demand decreases at the same time as WEC’s hourly peak load demand. The forecasting strategy has saved the cooperative multiple hundred-thousand-dollar demand charges from WEC each month.
“As we grow the cooperative, we are trying to be more strategic and efficient in our generation opportunities,” Line states.