Powering Pollinators: PPL Electric Utilities keeps pollinators buzzing in Lancaster

Powering Pollinators: PPL Electric Utilities keeps pollinators buzzing in Lancaster

Bees buzzed from flower to flower while butterflies and moths gently floated from one plant to another on a recent sunny day within PPL Electric Utilities’ transmission line corridor that crosses Lancaster Conservancy’s Kellys Run Preserve. The thriving habitat, which was alive with blooms of frost aster, bull thistle, milkweed and sunflowers, was part of a collaborative effort between PPL Electric and Lancaster Conservancy to expand the preserve’s pollinator park and benefit a wide array of pollinator species.

The 460-acre preserve, one of 50 Lancaster Conservancy manages, began restoration efforts to turn 12 acres of the preserve into a pollinator park in 2021. And, while PPL Electric was working on a rebuild of a nearly century-old transmission line that runs through the preserve that same year, the utility took the opportunity to help expand the Conservancy’s pollinator meadows into the company’s right-of-way area under the power lines by nearly two and a half acres.

“This collaborative approach [between PPL Electric and Lancaster Conservancy] has proven fruitful at both Safe Harbor and Kellys Run nature preserves,” said Avery Van Etten of Lancaster Conservancy. “Conservancy-led habitat restoration projects were designed in consideration of PPL Electric needs, while the replacement of PPL Electric transmission infrastructure within the project area was approached in a manner considerate of the active restoration projects on Conservancy preserves.”

The continued collaboration is a win-win as both organizations are invested in protecting and enhancing the natural environment. In addition to helping the VIPs (very important pollinators), the pollinator-friendly plants can help to save PPL Electric costs by requiring less vegetation management and treatment within the power line corridor. Plus, the lower-profile plants also have the benefit of providing enhanced visibility when it’s time to inspect those power lines. By using the right mix of native plants within its right-of-way areas, PPL Electric can enhance the environment while improving reliability and lowering costs.

“From the collaborative approach to different project needs, to everyday activities such as invasive species management by Lancaster Conservancy and vegetation management work being performed by PPL Electric and its contractors, enhanced communication over the past five years has helped continue to build a working relationship between Lancaster Conservancy and PPL Electric,” added Van Etten.

A bee hovers near a bull thistle flower while another bee climbs on the flower in the Pollinator Park in Kellys Run Preserve.

It’s no secret that pollinators are a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to the environment and human life. In fact, according to the USDA, more than 150 common food crops in the US depend on pollinators including almost all fruit and grain crops.

“Flowering plants assist in carbon sequestration and produce the oxygen we breathe,” said Van Etten. “Flowering plants also purify water, prevent erosion and reduce sedimentation, all of which help contribute to a healthy and functioning ecosystem. Without pollinators such as honeybees, bats, butterflies and slugs, the ecosystem we rely on for day-to-day life would collapse.”

PPL Electric has developed numerous partnerships with conservancies around northeastern and central Pennsylvania to provide pollinator-friendly plants and seeds for easements, similar to what’s taking place in Kellys Run Preserve. In addition to taking action around the region, PPL Electric’s Community Roots Program has also contributed to the planting of more than 100 acres of native pollinator-friendly wildflowers thanks to seed donations to schools, community organizations and environmentally focused groups since 2017.

If you’re looking to join PPL Electric and Lancaster Conservancy in helping these very important pollinators, Van Etten says there are ways to create pollinator-friendly habitats where you live.

“Lancaster Conservancy protects and restores large tracts of natural lands, but we need our community to help create wildlife habitat in other places, especially in developed areas,” said Van Etten. “Birds, insects, and other animals need corridors of connected habitat to thrive. The Conservancy has resources to help. Visit lancasterconservancy.org/habitat to learn more about how you can help create pollinator habitat in your own flowerpot, yard or community.”

And, to learn more about all of the ways PPL Electric is helping to protect and enhance the environment, visit pplelectric.com/environment.

Engineering an electric and educational future

Engineering an electric and educational future

This week is Engineers Week, a time dedicated to celebrating all that engineers do to make a difference, while promoting the need for more engineers in society. We’re proud of our hardworking, innovative engineers who help push us toward our goal of becoming the utility of the future. 

Francis Frank is one of our engineers making a difference both here at PPL Electric and beyond. As the director of grid modernization, he’s tasked with keeping our grid reliable for years to come. 

“I look at the grid today, and I prepare it for the future,” Frank said. “I’m figuring out how solar, electric vehicles, wind and other renewable energy sources will affect the grid.” 

As Francis looks toward the future, he’s motivated by his past. He is a proud native of the Caribbean island country of Grenada. From a young age, he took an interest in how energy worked at home.

“I saw how the lack of proper administration of power services, like power distribution, affected the island,” he said. “I was always interested in figuring out why a country with so much sunshine was powered by diesel.” 

Francis received an associate degree in Grenada before moving to the United States. His plan was to get a second degree and head home. Over 20 years later, he is still making a difference in the U.S. He joined PPL Electric in September of 2022, and has been working with his 67 team members to advance a safe, reliable and affordable electric future. Francis says that progression would not be possible without his team. 

“My team is the valuable resource that enables my success,” he said. “Our engineers and technicians provide the technical solutions to enable the grid modernization projects and processes. The foundation of this team is allowing us to become the utility of the future.” 

Although he stayed in America, his roots are still deeply embedded in the communities that make up Grenada. He is the president of his family’s foundation, dedicated to helping provide schoolbooks, fees, uniforms and more to local students.  

“I’m blessed,” he said. “I consider myself, first and foremost, an ambassador to Grenada. The foundation is a way to represent my country and help it come together as one nation with one future.” 

As an engineer, Francis says he would love to see some of these students be inspired by the island around them and take a similar path, but he says there’s also a need for engineers here in the U.S. 

“Engineers are so valuable,” he said. “We need to encourage STEM programs in our education systems, so we can have engineers ready to come up with important solutions in our future. Our value should always be celebrated and encouraged.” 

Francis solves problems today that positively impact the years ahead. He’s engineering a clean, affordable energy future, while engineering an educational foundation for children in his native country. 

“It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding because I know where I come from and I’m blessed to have this opportunity,” he said. “Somebody ought to do it, and I’m blessed that I’ve been chosen to take it on.” 

We are grateful for Francis and the many engineers that help us provide safe, reliable power to over 1.5 million customers. 

Power to the PEEPS

Power to the PEEPS

We pride ourselves on delivering safe, reliable and affordable electricity to a variety of businesses across our territory. One company we’re especially proud to power, sits in the quaint town of Bethlehem and has been manufacturing marshmallow PEEPs® Brand marshmallow candies for the past 100 years.

If you’ve never heard of Just Born Quality Confections, its impressive manufacturing plant spans 14 acres, has 7 kitchens and uses 100 PSI of compression to whip marshmallow for 5.5 million PEEPS® per day. The Company operates industrial sized fans, blowers, steam, and refrigeration twenty-four hours a day, 5 days a week. Naturally, reliable power plays a critical role in their operations. An unplanned power outage would mean lost production time and a lengthy, sticky, cleaning process to ramp back up. This multi-generational, family-owned company acknowledges the importance of quality power to operate its busy plant.

“We use a huge amount of power to make PEEPS®, Mike and Ike® and Hot Tamales® Brand candies,” said Just Born Senior Manager of Engineering and Facilities, David Escott. “We are so grateful to PPL Electric Utilities’ strong electric infrastructure and the responsive support we receive from our key account manager, Javid. Our electricity has been highly reliable over the years,” said David Escott.

In addition to providing reliable power, we are focused on helping our customers save energy and drive efficiency through their operations. A few years ago, we recommended energy-efficiency measures to help reduce costs for the PEEP® Brand’s operations. Just Born replaced a chiller from the 1990s, earning them a $60,000 rebate. The new chiller saves the company approximately $70,000 a year in energy costs. Pretty sweet.

So, the next time you enjoy a pack of PEEPS®, Mike and Ike® or Hot Tamales®, remember the power it takes to create these sweet treats. Reliable power is important to Just Born, Quality Confections and Just Born, like all our customers, is important to us.

Groundhog Day – Let’s talk weather forecasts

Groundhog Day – Let’s talk weather forecasts

Punxsutawney Phil’s prognostication on Gobbler’s Knob for an early spring might make you sad – or glad – depending on your love of snow and cold weather.

For an electric utility, however, watching the weather isn’t a matter of shadows. It’s a serious, around-the-clock job that helps us keep your service reliable and helps us plan for stormy weather that can cause outages.

We contract with several weather services to keep us informed of current and future weather conditions. From there, we use modeling and our experience to make plans about staffing, materials, and more.

Our service territory covers 10,000 square miles. That’s a larger area than New Jersey. This includes both urban and rural areas, mountains and valleys. Weather can vary widely depending on location and elevation. In the same day, it can be sunny in Lancaster and stormy in the Poconos, and knowing that in advance is a big advantage. That’s why we monitor around the clock, every day of the year.

Forecasting can help us make plans for all kinds of weather. In serious storms, like hurricanes, we can call in mutual assistance from other utilities, if that’s necessary. Expanding our crews helps to get the lights back on quicker.

The bottom line is this: Whether Phil sees his shadow or not, whether an almanac predicts bad or fair weather, we’re ready.

Keeping our customers safe and the lights on in Harrisburg

Keeping our customers safe and the lights on in Harrisburg

It took a lot of strategic planning, hard work and the use of a 100-ton crane, but residents on one city block in Harrisburg can rest easier now that a huge tree that had become a safety hazard is gone.Equipment ready to cut down a massive tree

We partnered with the City of Harrisburg and tree-removal experts to safely remove the gargantuan Elm, with roots spanning multiple properties and branches entangled in our power lines.

Once customers began calling with safety concerns, we knew we had to act before the tree caused an electrical fire or outages—or fell and hurt someone or damaged property.

“Tree maintenance on private property generally isn’t our responsibility,” said Regional Affairs Director Maggie Sheely. “But, when it comes to safety, we don’t compromise. We step up to do the right thing and keep our customers safe.”

Equipped with bucket trucks and generators, our crews were on site for four days, untangling the large tree from our lines with precision.

It was a TREE-mendous effort by all that created a safer environment and ensured more reliable service for some Harrisburg residents.