Time passages

Time-passages-01092015It is that time of year where everyone is highlighting the “Top 10” and “Best of” anything and everything related to the year just ended, 2014. The best news stories, celebrities who died, the worst crimes, the top sports stories, the best football hits, top baby names, etc. There are even lists of the top new words that we added to our language…hashtag, selfie, or for those more oriented to social networks, #hashtag, #selfie.

There are also the lists of New Year’s resolutions and predictions of what to look for in 2015. It would be easy to take this approach and simply share some thoughts about relevant top energy issues from last year and what they might portend for 2015. But that would be so…typical.

I’m not one for deep, introspective reflections on the past or writing resolutions. As I age, I simply have an increasing respect for, and awareness of, the passage of time. I have a greater understanding of both my past and what opportunities might remain. I am certainly much closer to the end of my career than the beginning. If, for example, I have X years remaining, what are the most value-add opportunities on which I would like to focus my energies?

In 1978 when my career in the electric utility business started, Al Stewart had a hit song titled Time Passages, which told us:

Well I’m not the kind to live in the past,
The years run too short and the days too fast.
The things you lean on, are the things that don’t last…
Time passages.
(*For your convenience, I’ve put a music video below!)

The recent holidays allowed me two trips back to Lincoln, Nebraska. I received my civil engineering degree from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. My first utility engineering job was at Lincoln Electric System (LES). We lived in Lincoln for nearly 15 years before we moved for other job opportunities. Lincoln is full of great memories. It also provides stark examples of the passing of time.

My first 115 kV design opportunity continues to parallel Interstate 80 along the north side of Lincoln. Due to system growth, most of this once-proud line has been rebuilt and upgraded. Very few of the original structures remain, but I check on them each time to see how they are doing. Time passages.

At 70th & Pioneers, I drive under another 115 kV line. This project provided me the opportunity to develop a clearing specification for the corridor, when it was still mostly rural, before I knew what a corridor actually was. It is also upgraded, and no longer rural. Time passages.

At 10th and South a small four-plex apartment sits on the corner. This was my first distribution service design when the complex was built. I began to learn how to deal with developers on this one. It is still there, and the lights were on. Time passages.

LES had an early application of underground 115 kV cable. It was a big deal. We all had slices of the cable for paperweights on our desks. Today a new 115 line route goes through my old neighborhood, and a large segment of this line is underground. Time passages.

I had the opportunity to spend time on campus. Many of my classes were in Bancroft Hall. It is gone. There are now buildings named after some of my professors. Theodore Jorgensen Hall. Splinter Laboratories on East Campus. Time passages.

These observations are simple reminders that, as utility engineers, we get to provide facilities that are meant to serve for a time. Something newer and bigger and stronger and better is always going to be needed, in time. Technology and materials and methods develop and improve, over time. These changes are both useful and necessary. They serve for a time.

As utility engineers, we have the privilege to be a part of this process. My hope is that we all have the time of our lives while doing it.

About the author

Marlon is our account executive in the Power market. He has more than 35 years of experience with all aspects of planning, design and construction of 12.5 kV-345 kV distribution and transmission systems, including right-of-way, design, regulatory coordination, public information meetings, public testimony and project management. With an extensive background in power transmission and distribution, Marlon brings a wide variety of knowledge in discussing the energy industry and the issues it faces. From education of future engineers to critical infrastructure analysis, he offers a unique perspective on the industry and where it's headed.