Ulteig and CIPCO Celebrate Over 5 Decades of Innovation

September 18, 2023

Ulteig and CIPCO’s relationship highlighted in Iowa Electric Cooperative Living Magazine here on page 4.

The past five decades have undeniably cemented the partnership between CIPCO (Central Iowa Power Cooperative) and Ulteig. As they celebrate this golden milestone, they remain focused on the future, understanding with clarity the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the rapidly evolving energy sector.

While the partnership between Ulteig and CIPCO spans 50 years, the story of their collaboration is far from just a portfolio of substation and transmission line projects. Rather, it’s about people and a continuous pursuit of excellence that continues today.

Origins of a Strong Partnership

Like Ulteig, CIPCO traces its beginnings to the post-war 1940s. With its co-op approach and born out of the Rural Electrification Administration, CIPCO’s work in generation and transmission is easily seen across the state.

It was in the 1960s when Ulteig found itself on CIPCO’s radar. Ulteig’s extensive work in substation, transmission, survey and right-of-way work also extended back 20 years at that point, making the relationship that formed between the two companies seamless.

“When CIPCO started rebuilding high voltage lines, we began by replacing many dead-end structures on a line originally built in 1948,” recalls Joe Feld, who started with CIPCO as a line foreman and retired in 2021 as an operations manager after 40 years with the company. “Ulteig dug up quite a bit of info and was able to come up with a modern-day design for replacement.”

An Award-Winning Collaboration

This pursuit of engineering excellence truly coalesced within the last few years, when CIPCO endeavored to reconfigure its recently-built Newport Substation near Wapello, Iowa, with plans to add solar generation onto the power grid.

To meet future demands, Ulteig was there to help its partner, providing a wide breadth of resources, from schematics and physical equipment layouts, to structural engineering and project management services.

The solar interconnect became such a resounding success that the American Council of Engineering Companies of Iowa (ACEC Iowa) presented Ulteig with its Grand Prize Award in the Energy Production category. The Ulteig/CIPCO collaboration ultimately received a National Recognition Award in the 2021 ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards competition.

Secrets to Success

CIPCO and Ulteig projects seem to share one thing in common: exceeding expectations.

“One notable project with CIPCO was the South Loop 161kV/69kV double-circuit transmission line project which was recently constructed and energized,” says Kelly Bjerke, who recently retired from Ulteig as a Transmission and Distribution Technical Manager. “The design of this project was challenging for the team because the line is located along a congested interstate highway corridor, the transmission structures are all steel monopoles, coordination with several entities was required, and the project schedule was quick. It was rewarding to see this high-visibility project successfully completed!”

Bjerke was with Ulteig for more than 22 years and worked with CIPCO for nearly 20 of those years. “It is built on decades of mutual trust and understanding, and the relationship is not taken for granted by either party,” he explains. “It has always felt to me like we’re all on one big team working together to help CIPCO in their mission to provide safe, reliable and cost-effective electric service to their member cooperatives.”

A Golden Partnership: Celebrating 50+ Years

“Change is constant, and the partnership between CIPCO and Ulteig has grown stronger through that change,” reflects Mark Scheid, Ulteig’s Power Market Director. “We have worked together on new projects, upgrades and repairs after storms. We have gone from paper files and handwritten memos to computer aided drafting and geographic information systems over the past 50 years. However, the most important part of this partnership has been the strong relationships and great people working together. I hope that 50 years from now, the next generation of engineers can look back and see how this partnership has grown and evolved from where we are today.”

Implementing change takes time and perseverance. Through listening, learning and working together, CIPCO and Ulteig remain committed.

For everyone — here’s to the road ahead.

Contact CIPCO or Ulteig to learn more.

  • Company, Energy

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