Since she was a co-op student, Teresa Mogensen has been interested in the way electricity moves across power-line grids. So six years ago, when a new company was created that would be the first in the nation to specialize in the transmission part of the electric power equation, Mogensen happily joined the team of original planners.
Today she's on her third directorship assignment at American Transmission Co (Pewaukee, WI). "It was great fun to put a new company together; an extremely good experience," Mogensen says.
Overseeing real-time ops
Mogensen oversees the people and systems that manage real-time operation of the company's transmission grid, which includes 8,900 miles of transmission line and 480 substations across the eastern half of Wisconsin, the upper peninsula of Michigan and part of north-central Illinois.
From two sophisticated control centers in Wisconsin, ATC operators control the flow of electricity over the grid from power plants to communities.
"If you liken it to the road, we're running an interstate system for moving bulk power from power plants," Mogensen says. When the power reaches a distribution center, a local utility company takes over and distributes the electricity to the homes and businesses in its area.
ATC owns no generation plants. "We inherited access, if you will, from traditional hundred-year-old electric utilities. It's really not so much deregulation as more of a reconfiguration," Mogensen says. The state of Wisconsin moved to a wholesale electricity environment in 1999; the company was formed in 2000 and began operations in 2001.
"We're privately held by a variety of investor-owned utility companies and municipal or cooperative utilities," Mogensen explains.
At the top of several chains
The company started with fifty employees. Now it's grown to about 450, filling mostly professional and management functions. The field and construction crews are contracted from local utilities and construction companies.
There are thirteen directors with various responsibilities. Four of them, including Mogensen, are the main technical directors.
Mogensen was one of the first company employees. "I've been at the top of several technical chains," she says. They include planning, which means assessing the system to see what new facilities are needed; engineering; and construction.
Her current role is directing system operations, which divides into the key functions of monitoring, analysis and control. "We have an extensive communications network that relays information to and from monitoring points all around the grid," she says.
"We're monitoring the flow of power and voltage, and watching for alarms that may indicate something is or will be operating outside its range." They also monitor output from all the power plants on the grid.
Mogensen's staff of eighty-two includes operators who handle monitoring and control, and outage coordinators who regulate construction and maintenance activity. There's also an ops engineering group to help respond to emergencies, usually by performing analysis to isolate and contain the problem.
Sparked in college
Mogensen's interest in EE was sparked in college. She was attracted to the idea of applying theory and academic concepts to real life.
"I'm so glad I did, because at the time not many women were going into engineering," she says. She graduated from Marquette University (Milwaukee, WI) in 1989 with a BSEE, and received her MBA from Marquette in 2003.
In college she did three co-ops at Wisconsin Electric Power Co. "I could see I liked the work, the interesting things going on, and the whole idea of the people and the utility environment," she says.
She also thought that the field seemed more woman-friendly than, for example, manufacturing. "I felt it was balanced and the environment was right."
Engineer II and up
After graduation Mogensen worked for a year as an engineer II in distribution system protection, engineering and construction at Wisconsin Electric. Then she moved to specialist in the new product development group, which designed products and programs for commercial and industry customers. The idea was to improve conservation and energy efficiency.
In 1993 Mogensen became senior engineer in the distribution automation group of the distribution ops department. That made her a project manager and engineer for major new technology initiatives like communication, control and automation technologies.
That same year she got her PE license in Wisconsin, and her first son was born. The next came three years later. "I've had a good life. I've always worked on trying to maintain balance," she says.
By 1998 Mogensen was assistant manager of transmission planning and system protection groups. When ATC formed in 2000 she was in the right place to become its planning director, since ATC's new CEO had been aware of her work at Wisconsin Electric.
"Being part of a new company from the ground up, I've had a wide variety of exciting experiences," she says. "I got to do so many different things because we put all this together from square one."