Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Getting energized



Commonwealth is proud to have provided engineering, environmental permitting support, and right of way acquisition to help turn PSE&G's vision for this new 500 kV transmission line into reality:  
http://pseg.com/info/media/newsreleases/2014/2014-04-29a.jsp#.U2ERK41OXcs

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Top Design Firms Named



Congratulations to the team for again being listed among the EC&M Magazine Top 40 Electrical Design Firms and the Engineering News-Record  Top 500 Design Firms!  This year, Commonwealth was particularly excited to be profiled among the EC&M  Top 10 firms, coming in at #8. 

It is always an honor to appear alongside such talented and impressive firms!  We certainly are passionate about what we do and proud to serve the electric utility industry, municipalities, industrial clients, and some of the world's most prestigious educational, healthcare, and research institutions.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

IEEE in the Windy City

In just a few short weeks, we'll be in Chicago for IEEE PES T&D Conference and Expo 2014!  If you're planning to join us for some green screen fun and a complimentary souvenir photo, and haven't already done so, you might want to check out and download the official app.  With the app, you can:

  • Easily locate Commonwealth at Booth 8033 (hint, hint!)
  • Populate a schedule of other things you’d like to attend/see
  • Explore a list of exhibitors with information about each and the ability to “favorite” the exhibitor, schedule a visit with them, and/or get directions to their booth
  • View various maps -- exhibits, halls, hotels, etc.
  • View technical program session info, locations, duration and more
  • See a list of speakers, their employers, and when/where they’ll be speaking
  • Access general information about shuttles, the schedule, special events, etc.
  • View and contribute to a photo gallery
  • Follow and contribute to a live Twitter stream using the hashtag #TandD2014
  • Download and view handouts and videos
  • Scan QR codes for more information
  • Figure out where you are in relation to another point
  • View an easy-to-follow ordered map of the exhibitors you choose to bookmark to make the most of your time
  • Discover local Chicago attractions
  • Follow “IEEE PES T&D Conference” on Facebook, and check-in on Facebook when you arrive, for the latest postings there and to contribute to that page
  • Post on LinkedIn regarding the conference 

It's a great resource -- I hope you'll check it out!  See you in Chicago!

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving thanks

 
Maybe it's because Thanksgiving is right around the corner, or maybe it has something to do with the great news we received recently, but Commonwealth is just bursting at the seams with gratitude these days!

First, let us just say how very much we appreciate you -- our clients, employees, future employees, retirees, friends, and...most of all...our families.

To our clients...thank you for the opportunity to provide you with engineering and support services.  We enjoy getting to know you on job sites and golf courses, at restaurants, and in your offices or ours.  We value your time and work to continually earn the trust you place in us. 

To our employees...thank you for your commitment to Commonwealth and for giving your very best every day to achieve our shared vision of being a recognized leader, the preferred consultant, and the employer of choice in the markets we serve.

To our retirees...thank you for the extraordinary 25 years we celebrated this summer!  We are grateful for your participation in our events and for your willingness to mentor others.

To our future employees...thank you for considering employment with Commonwealth.  We can't wait to see what the future holds.

To our friends and family...a very special thank you for your support and encouragement as we pursue a career we love, even when it takes us on the road or keeps us at work a bit later than planned.  You make it all worthwhile.

Lastly, one more thank you to our employees.  It's a big one!  THANK YOU for your wonderful feedback on the Workplace Dynamics survey.  Because of you driving us to be the very best and your willingness to share your thoughts and feelings, Commonwealth can proudly say we are a Detroit Free Press 2013 Top 100 Workplace

What are you most thankful for this year?

From the Commonwealth Family to yours --

Have a very happy Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Teaming up to reduce emissions

We're excited to be part of a collaborative groundbreaking project to provide information which ultimately empowers energy consumers in their daily decision-making about environmental stewardship.  Get the HERO (Home Emissions Read-Out) app HERE.

As Commonwealth's Steve Miller recently put it,“If we are successful, one outcome might be a service which (people) can employ with their appliances. To choose the time of day or place where using their appliance will cause more or less emissions.”

Click HERE to read the full MLive article.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Shining the light on outage prevention

 
Today marks the infamous 10th anniversary of the August 14, 2003 blackout of the eastern United States.  The massive outage, or megablackout, determined to be the result of a tree branch in Ohio initially taking out a 345kV line, compounded by cascading failure, affected over 50 million people with an economic fallout estimated at ten billion dollars. 

Over the past decade, a great deal of effort has gone into reducing the chances of a similar widespread outage occurring in the future.  Areas of success include the creation and strengthening of standards associated with the planning and operation of power systems, and the application of new technologies, particularly Phasor Measurement Units (PMU) -- a technology driven by the same GPS technology driving the universal mapping functions in our phones and other applications -- to situational awareness. 

Despite these advances, as more recent incidents demonstrate, more work remains to be done.  Fundamental components, such as transmission lines and transformers that make up the grid, need to be updated and added to meet current needs and the desire to support new generation sources including wind, solar and natural gas fired plants.  When it comes to the potential for cascading outages of the grid, techniques for consistent analyzing these events prior to their occurrence and identifying cost effective remedies are still in their infancy.

Commonwealth Associates is an active participant in planning, identifying, and implementing such solutions and we always welcome opportunities to discuss techniques and collaborate in creating solutions.  For information about our Transmission Grid Analytics - Cascade Analysis (TM) software that helps to prevent future blackouts, click here.  In a nutshell, it provides:
  • A verifiable and complete list of “breaker-to-breaker” contingencies
  • Identification of ALL contingencies that cause violations and a direct or indirect assessment of all double (Category B and C) contingency combinations
  • Analytical methodology to supplement your engineer’s experience and judgment
  • Objective, repeatable, and reasonable classification of contingencies that cause A/R violations into those that will not cause outages beyond a predetermined area and those that cannot be eliminated as potential causes for widespread outages
  • Priority list of trouble facilities that identifies and suggests root causes for contingencies that may initiate widespread outages
  • Independent evaluation of your system suitable for use as compliance documentation that management can include in their "due diligence" reporting
  • Custom solutions

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

25 Years...and Counting!

This July, Commonwealth celebrated 25 years of being an employee-owned engineering firm providing world-class consulting expertise to the electric power industry and our utility, municipal, institutional, and industrial clients.  You can read more about this particularly meaningful milestone on p. 28 (p. 30 of the .pdf) of Jackson Magazine's August issue

The festivities included monthly fun activities, the official unveiling of new glass panels in our hallway of history; a Friday evening gala at the newly renovated Robert Snyder Hall in Jackson College's impressive Potter Center, where we recognized our founding shareholders and employees; and a spectacular day full of food, frolicking, and fun at our employee family picnic on the grounds of our headquarters in Jackson, Michigan. 

We feel truly honored to work with such accomplished colleagues, many of whom serve on the committees setting tomorrow's industry standards, and even more honored to be given the trust and loyalty of our outstanding clients -- among them major utilities, industrial leaders, and some of the world's most prestigious educational and healthcare institutions. 

Here is a look back at some of the best memories from this past week...we hope you enjoy them!
 

On Thursday, President Dennis DeCosta proudly revealed
 two new commemorative panels representing the past 25 years.






Friday evening's gala attendees enjoyed the culinary delights of
Continental Services before the program.

 
 
Guests raved about the humorous delivery of keynote speaker, author,
and former professional comedian, Garrison Wynn.
 
 
 
 Saturday's family picnic included: two bands, one dessert contest, a pinewood
derby championship, inflatables for kids, and the Great Anniversary Giveaway.
 
 
 
25 years meant 25 lucky employees took home 25 very cool prizes.


 
The other winner was the fight against cancer, as President DeCosta
and the VPs took to the dunk tank to raise money for Relay for Life.

 
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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Utilities and system protection

 
Protective relaying work directly impacts system reliability.  In fact, you could say that it's the insurance policy for protecting the assets of a utility.  That’s why it’s vitally important that the consultant a utilities hires possesses the necessary expertise and judgment to make the right call, and can easily adopt the preferred standards and protection practices used at that utility.  Protective relaying is not something learned in a standard electrical engineering curriculum.  It takes years of practice to become competent. 
 
Expertise
Charles Mason aptly described protective relaying as both an art and science.  That’s because there is not a singular, scientifically-proven “best approach” to setting relays.  In fact, there occasionally are circumstances in which perfect coordination and protection simply cannot be achieved and the engineer is required to make a judgment call.  (Fortunately for our clients, Commonwealth's roots in the industry date back to 1888 and we have engineers with over 40 years in the business, so we bring a wealth of knowledge to client projects and have a proven track record of making the right call.) 
 
Insight
Modern digital relays are complex.  Each client will have unique features used, philosophy, settings criteria, and relay set up.  This “tribal knowledge,” developed over the years, may not even be known to all internal engineers.  We are helping clients to capture and document this knowledge, and providing a more rigorous, standardized format for presenting study results.  We also help translate this knowledge into standards that enable consistent relay setting by utility employees or consultants.
 
Software
There are two major protection software programs in the electric utility transmission system arena – CAPE and ASPEN OneLinerTM.  With nearly a 2-to-1 utility market share, ASPEN is considered quite user-friendly. CAPE is more robust in modeling capability and running system simulations, but requires a steep learning curve and is more difficult to learn compared with ASPEN.  Commonwealth is one of a very few consultants highly experienced with both.  
 
Here are the Top 10 reasons to connect with Commonwealth for system protection services:
 
1)     We can be a seamless extension of your staff, following your utility’s philosophy and settings criteria.

2)     You get the benefit of our extensive experience with CAPE & ASPEN.

3)     You can trust us to review your settings or utility practices for NERC compliance.

4)     We can perform your system wide upgrades, including design work, updating protection standards, and relay studies and analysis to provide the relay settings.

5)     You can address the increasingly important arc flash issues by using the automated process we developed in CAPE to efficiently perform calculations in the utility environment.

6)     You can tap into our experience with analyzing event files from digital relays for troubleshooting or independent review of relay settings to diagnose misoperations.

7)     We can provide databases and data management to build combined short circuit models using data from both CAPE and ASPEN users.

8)     We have extensive field experience with commissioning and testing of new relaying systems.

9)     We can provide protection studies, coordination, arc flash, and troubleshooting for power plant electrical systems.

10)  We can help you with overflow work or get you through a period of new staff development.
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Friday, June 14, 2013

Commonwealth New Board Members Announced

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 13, 2013
Contact: Kelly Engler (517) 768-7137
 

 
Commonwealth Welcomes New Board Members
 
JACKSON, MI - Commonwealth is pleased to announce that Samuel R. Barnes, P.E. and Robert J. Millies, P.E. have been newly elected to the company's Board of Directors.

Samuel R. Barnes, P.E.

With over 22 years in the industry, Barnes is Vice President of Power Generation and Energy at Commonwealth.  He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Jackson College, as JC’s Representative on the Board of Directors for The Dahlem Conservancy, and as President of the Jackson Cascades Lions Club.

Robert J. Millies, P.E.
 Millies, a civil engineer, is a Section Manager in Commonwealth’s Transmission and Distribution Line Engineering Department.  He has been with Commonwealth for over 15 years and in the industry for over 20.  Millies serves as Secretary for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Transmission Line Construction Working Group.

Commonwealth is proud to recently have been ranked 9th in the nation among the 2013 Top 40 Engineering Design Firms by EC&M Magazine.  We provide solutions for utilities, municipalities, industrial clients, and world-class educational and healthcare institutions.  This year the corporation celebrates its 25th Anniversary as an employee-owned company.  Headquartered in Jackson, Michigan, the company has offices in Mount Vernon, Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; Columbus, Ohio; and Roanoke, Virginia.
 
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Commonwealth Associates, Inc.  I PO Box 1124, Jackson, MI 49204 I 517-788-3000 I www.cai-engr.com
For more information, please visit: www.cai-engr.com.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Top Design Firm Rankings Announced

Last month, we learned that we had again made Engineering News-Record's Top 500 Design Firm list, so the question became how could we possibly repeat such excitement this month? 

By making the 2013 Top 40 Design Firm list put out by EC&M Magazine, of course!  This year, we come in at 9th in the nation...not too shabby!

Of course, this would not be possible without the loyal support of our clients, and the absolute passion for, and commitment to, technical excellence in engineering by our dedicated staff of employee-owners.  To them all we say a very big, very heartfelt THANK YOU!

Friday, April 26, 2013

New rankings out today!


 

Most days around here are really good (although we almost unanimously agree that real "Spring" can arrive any time now), but you know it's going to be a particularly exceptional day when you see your name up 39 spots in the Top 500 Design Firm List put out by McGraw Hill's Engineering News-Record.  

We think the formula's really pretty simple...combine technical excellence with world-class client service, all for a fair price. 

To see the complete list: http://enr.construction.com/toplists/Top-Design-Firms/001-100.asp

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine Sparks

Today is Valentine's Day -- a day to celebrate all of the powerful and heart-warming forms of love displayed on this planet by mankind.  A cute article on the various celebrations around the globe can be found here

Today, paper hearts with beginner's penmanship touch the hearts of mothers and fathers the world over,



men (and women) with sweaty palms make promises of forever with that certain someone they can't imagine life without,



and life-long couples reflect back upon the deep abiding friendship that kept the romance alive during years of sacrifice and struggle...couples like this one.

We demonstrate our affection in a myriad of ways, from handmade cards to chocolates and flowers, but sometimes"sparks" on Valentine's Day are not always a good thing and the gifts we give can actually cause harm.  Learn more here: http://www.pgecurrents.com/2013/02/12/video-metallic-balloons-popular-but-they-pose-a-valentine%E2%80%99s-day-hazard/

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Getting the green light


Susquehanna-Roseland line

Just this week, a project in which we are involved was in the news as having received court approval to proceed: http://www.northjersey.com/news/NJ_court_OKs_transmission_line_upgrades_in_the_Highlands.html?c=y&page=1.  

This project involves designing a new 45-mile double-circuit 230 kV/500 kV steel pole transmission line to replace an existing 230 kV transmission line on a narrow 150-foot-wide right-of-way.   A portion of the line has to remain energized during construction to keep a substation fed from two sources.   The remaining line will be constructed in a way that will allow the re-energization of the line in a 14-hour turn-around time frame.
 
Commonwealth has provided an electrical effects analysis; assistance with permitting; and design that entails traversing the Delaware Water Gap area, crossing existing transmission lines, and interconnecting to a new 500 kV switching station.  Commonwealth also was involved with the alternative route analysis and the preferred route evaluation.   A feasibility report and cost estimates were prepared initially for the preferred route, and then the design began.   Commonwealth also assisted in the permitting documentation phase.
 
The final deliverables will be a construction package for the entire line and support by Commonwealth during construction.   The structures are double-circuit tubular steel poles, sometimes mini-legged design, and double-circuit lattice towers.   The 500 kV circuit consists of four-bundle 1590 kcmil “Falcon” ACSR. The heights of the structure were required to be less than 200 feet.  This project began in 2008 and is ongoing.
 
We are pleased to be a part of the work taking place to help the client meet reliability standards while being good environmental stewards.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

DeCosta named 2012 Outstanding Engineer

 
 
 
 
DeCosta to Receive Southeast Michigan IEEE Power and Energy Society Award


 
Commonwealth is delighted to announce that President Dennis F. DeCosta, P.E., will receive the 2012 Outstanding Engineer Award from the Southeastern Michigan chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Power and Energy Society (IEEE-PES).  The award will be presented on January 28, 2013 in Southfield, Michigan. 

DeCosta has a long history of involvement in establishing new standards for the industry, including chairing a Substation Committee Working Group and authoring articles in industry publications.  DeCosta was among the founders of Commonwealth when it began in 1988.  He assumed the role of President in 2001.  Under his leadership, the company has grown to 260 employees in six states: California, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Washington.  “I enjoy what I do and sharing that passion with others,” said DeCosta, “I thank the chapter for their industry leadership and for this honor."
 
We are proud of Dennis' accomplishments and congratulate him on this well-deserved recognition. 
 

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