When Extreme Weather Becomes the New Norm

From record lows to unseasonable high temperatures, wind storms and everything in between, extreme weather is becoming the new norm in Michigan. At ITC, part of our job is to plan for a system that can handle this extreme weather we’re seeing. Let’s look at some recent events:

January 30-31, 2019: A large area of low pressure and cold air expanding south with the jetstream brought record cold temps not seen in Michigan in over 20 years. ITC’s Michigan systems performed very well and were in the unusual position of exporting as much as 10% of generation to the MISO market, allowing MISO to avoid a capacity shortfall. At the same time, wind output in Michigan was near capacity: 37,662 Megawatt hours, or 12% of Michigan’s total load, came from wind energy on Jan. 30. This underscores how the changing resource mix, and increasing reliance on variable output renewable energy, will make a strong transmission system capable of handling extreme weather events, and vast swings in resource output and availability, even more important.

September 4-5, 2018: Labor Day traditionally marks the unofficial end to summer, but in the weeks that followed, unseasonable high temperatures continued in Michigan. On Sept. 4, ITC’s METC operating company set a September load record of 8,890 MW, breaking the old record by over 500 MW, last set in 2007. The next day, our ITCTransmission operating company set a September load record of 11,552 MW, 150 MW more than the previous 2002 record. Our systems performed well, not only serving load across the state, but importing nearly 2,800 MW of power into Michigan, about 13.5% of the total system load at the Sept. 5 peak. This certainly isn’t the highest; back in July 2018 our systems brought in nearly 20% of the load in the METC and ITCT systems, at just over 4,300 MW. Renewable energy really played a role on Sept. 5: of the total load, 1,361 MW (just under 7% of the total) came from wind energy on both METC and ITCTransmission systems.

March 8, 2017: Michigan residents across the state experienced an extraordinary weather event. Despite the sunny blue sky, wind speeds climbed as high as 68 miles per hour in some areas of the state – not quite hurricane force, but close. The winds kicked into high gear that morning and continued throughout most of the day. At ITC we were closely monitoring the weather conditions, and staying in constant communication with our field crews throughout the day. Fortunately, ITC’s Michigan systems remained resilient with only a few momentary outages (outages less than 60 seconds and automatically restored) and no sustained customer outages.

As I look back on these events, I can’t help but think what a huge testament it is to all the hard work and investment that’s occurred over the last 16 years – from proactive maintenance, to rebuilding aging infrastructure, building new infrastructure, and keeping our corridors clear of vegetation interference. All of these efforts combined have resulted in a system that is more resilient and reliable than it was at our inception, and ready to face the next extreme weather event that comes our way.


Simon S. Whitelocke
Vice President, ITC Holdings Corp. and President, ITC Michigan


Giving Back in Our Communities

At ITC, our community commitments extend well beyond providing reliable energy. We make contributions to local nonprofits as part of our commitment to the many areas we serve. ITC supports qualified 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organizations whose programs and projects emphasize the company’s focus on education, environmental stewardship, social services, health and wellness, and arts and culture. In 2018, ITC awarded 21 grants to Michigan organizations. For more information on grant eligibility and guidelines, please visit 


ITC Supports YMCA Program in Cadillac

In northwest Michigan, ITC grant funding is helping The Cadillac Area YMCA keep kids on track for successful futures through after school programming. The YMCA’s Teen Center program engages young people in grades 6-12 in the pursuit of healthy living by offering free healthy meals, informal mentoring, and an environment that is open to and encourages vigorous play by youth throughout the YMCA facility.

Additionally, mentors promote wellbeing by coaching participants through some of life’s most adverse moments, and securing more formal intervention when needed. Currently the program is reaching nearly 700 young people each year with a daily average of 35. With ITC’s support, the YMCA plans to grow the program to over 800 participants with a daily average of 45 or higher.

Dan Smith, the YMCA Cadillac Area Director says, “It’s a good semi-structured way for youth to experience independence in a multi-generational setting, to experience healthy living habits, to form friendships and to have an adult mentor who’s providing value-based leadership in their lives and indirect intervention.

THAWing Out After the Polar Vortex

Across Michigan, 1.54 million households struggle to afford the basic needs of housing, including energy. To help provide a lifeline to families facing just such a crisis, The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW) provides financial assistance to economically challenged Michigan families to pay energy bills during the winter months.

In support of the good work that THAW is doing in our Michigan communities, ITC employees gathered on a cold February morning to heat up the phone lines by taking pledges for THAW at the 16th annual WWJ-AM Winter Survival Radiothon. Simon Whitelocke, president of ITC Michigan, was with the ITC team to present a donation on behalf of the company, saying “At ITC we know very well the importance of having reliable energy during these cold winter months. On behalf of all of our ITC employees, we’re proud to be a longtime supporter of THAW.”

For more information about THAW, please visit HTTPS://THAWFUND.ORG/
Listen to a radio interview HERE.


Toll Road Project Update

ITC’s Toll Road Project in Monroe County will provide greater system reliability and operational flexibility in Southeast Michigan. The project is being conducted in three phases:

  • Phase I involved construction of the new 120 kV Toll Road Station, which includes 11 120 kV breakers and reconfiguration of the Fermi-Swan Creek circuit into the station. This phase of the project was completed in April 2018.
  • Phase II of the project involved the installation of a new 150 MVAR SVC at Toll Road Station, the first SVC installation in ITC’s Michigan systems. SVCs provide an operational tool to ensure voltage stability for a diverse set of system conditions. This phase of the project was completed in December 2018. The Fermi-Vital 120 kV line was cut into the station in February following the SVC installation.
  • Phase III of the project involves the completion of a fiber optic relay line between the Toll Road and Shoal stations. Once this project is completed, the Shoal line will be cut into Toll Road Station. This is expected to take place by the end of 2020.

Whiting – Custer 120 kV Rebuild

ITC Michigan will rebuild approximately 10 miles of its Whiting – Custer 120,000 volt (120kV) transmission line, upgrading it to 230kV capacity to support future growth in the region. This project will improve the reliability of high-voltage electrical service in the area by replacing the current structures with double-circuit steel monopoles. Construction is scheduled to begin in Q3 2019 and be completed in Q4 2019. Read the Project Profile HERE.


Save the date! Partners in Business will be in Lansing on
October 2

Each year the ITC team gathers with customers, stakeholders, local officials and business partners to offer updates on our activities and projects. Through these annual Partners in Business (PIB) meetings, we work to build connections and share information that allows you to maximize the benefits of our investments in the regional grid.

We hope you’ll join us on October 2 at the Henry Center in Lansing for this year’s meeting. Watch your email for more details.


Life Saving Reliability

In Kalamazoo, global pharmaceutical leader Pfizer produces and supplies critical, life-saving products for patients around the world. Reliability is crucial to Pfizer’s operation, which runs around the clock seven days a week.

The west Michigan facility is powered by two 138 kV transmission lines, Milham-Upjohn and Cork Street Upjohn. In January, as part of a planned project, ITC took the Milham-Upjohn line out of service to install a tap pole that would interconnect a new distribution substation in the area. This meant that Pfizer’s facility would be on a single source of power for roughly three weeks while construction was completed.

On Feb. 5, as Michigan braced for an ice storm predicted to bring up to a quarter inch or more of ice to some areas, Pfizer reached out to ITC to restore its second source of power to ensure redundancy ahead of the storm.

ITC’s stakeholder relations, operations and field teams quickly mobilized. Crews worked diligently late into the night in challenging weather and terrain to not only complete the interconnection project, but also restore the Milham-Upjohn line to service. 

Tom Fletcher, Sr. Manager, Utilities for Pfizer remarked on the effort. “Please accept Pfizer’s THANKS for the last-minute work that was accomplished last night in order to restore the dual-feed to the Kalamazoo site. Please pass this along to the crews that worked diligently last night in the dark to make this happen.”

He added, “The Pfizer site in Kalamazoo is a 7×24 operation, making many products (some life-saving) that are distributed around the world. ITC’s willingness, on short notice, to restore the dual-feed reliability is much appreciated as even momentary interruptions of power typically lead to significant production time lost due to cleaning/qualification required in the sensitive areas of the plant.”


Spring Into Safe Planting Practices

While April showers and May flowers may still be a few weeks away, gardeners, farmers and landscapers are no doubt getting ready for the spring planting season. If transmission lines and towers are nearby, safety should always be the first consideration when preparing to plant crops, trees, flowers and gardens.

ITC works with communities and landowners to create awareness for the kinds of plants and shrubs that can be safely established near transmission lines, and the right places to plant trees. Under our “Right Tree, Right Place” program, we hold education events in communities to encourage landscape management that achieves landowner desired results while also preventing tree interference with transmission lines.

Planting the right tree in the right place, away from power lines, can help conserve energy by providing wind protection, shade and cool air. This can add beauty, privacy and wildlife habitat to the landscape while also protecting the safety and reliability of the transmission system.

As a landowner, it’s important to know how high a tree can grow when it reaches its full height. When it comes to planting near high-voltage transmission lines, ITC recommends:

  • Low-growing shrubs and grasses that will not go over 15 feet high in what we call the “wire zone”
  • Smaller, decorative trees and shrubs in what we call the “border zone”
  • And taller trees above 25 feet in the “far border zone”

There are a lot of different factors that determine the width of these zones. We recommend that home and business owners contact ITC if they are planning to plant something near power lines and we’ll be happy to answer any questions or provide recommendations.

For further information, please visit: 


Tips for Farming Safely Around Transmission Towers, Lines and Guy Wires

  • During spring planting season, pay special attention to planter guides and extended arms on farm equipment. Keep machinery a safe distance away from power lines and take care around guy wires that stabilize power poles. Snagging these wires can cause damage to equipment, cause power outages and put you in harm’s way.
  • Be aware of the height of your equipment and the location of overhead lines and maintain a safe distance.
  • Keep equipment such as ladders, poles and vehicles away from lines and other electrical equipment.
  • Be aware that non-metallic materials such as hay, lumber, tree limbs and some tires can conduct electricity.
  • If you are in a vehicle that makes contact with a power line, be sure to remain in the vehicle until it is a safe distance from the line. If you accidently break or damage a guy wire, or a plane damages a wire or tower, please let us know by calling 877-ITC.ITC9 (877.482.4829).
  • If someone is injured by coming into contact with electrical equipment, call 911 and inform the operator that it’s an electrical emergency.

Aerial Patrols Help Ensure Safety and Reliability Going Into Peak Demand Season

Twice a year ITC takes to the skies to conduct visual aerial inspections of its 8,700 miles of transmission lines throughout Michigan’s lower peninsula. Spring patrols will begin in Q2 2019. During the patrols, ITC’s steel towers, wood poles, conductors (wires), insulators and other equipment are inspected for any damaged or worn equipment, such as a cracked insulator or frayed wires that need to be addressed.

We bring that information back and conduct proactive maintenance to ensure the reliability of the system. Secondly, the inspections allow our foresters an opportunity to look for any vegetation growth that might  interfere with the lines, and create a safety or reliability issue. These semi-annual patrols are a North American Electrical Reliability Corporation (NERC) requirement for ITC’s vegetation management program, support proactive maintenance objectives, and are in line with the ITC’s model for operational excellence.