Thursday, February 23, 2012

We don't just rock. Good causes -- it's how we roll....

If you read our last post about being named a "Rockin' Place to Work," then you know we believe in working hard and playing hard.

Here's more proof...

The photos below are of the "Dream Team," consisting of Bob Uddin, Pat Keene, Jim & Cheryl Trapp, and Sandy Fisher.  They recently represented Commonwealth at the "Fabulous 50's Crazy Bowl" supporting Junior Achievement.  The Dream Team took 3rd place in fundraising to support youth development and, as you can see, had a great time in the process!

Commonwealth, corporately and as individual employee-owners, is committed to making a difference in each others' lives and those in the world around us.  Each year, we support a number of worthwhile causes, from Relay for Life to roadside and river clean-up, to the Cascades Humane Society.  Our employee-led "Connect" group meets regularly to discover, plan, organize, and execute activities and events in 3 focus areas in which we can come together to have fun and enrich lives: Culture, Compassion, and Community.  

We don't just power transmission lines, we power growth, hope, and renewal...what an incredible honor!


Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Rockin' Place to Work

You might have heard that we recently were rated among the best and coolest places to work.  Now, you can read the feature article as it appeared in Jackson Magazine! Simply click HERE.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Power Generation & Energy Group Job Listings

Lead Mechanical Engineer
Department: Power Generation & Energy
Location: Jackson, MI
Reports to: Department Manager

Responsible for:
- Guiding junior-level engineers and designers in mechanical engineering design and engineering study efforts. 
- Working on challenging assignments that include investigating, trouble-shooting, and solving mechanical engineering issues involving boilers, balance of plant equipment, air pollution control equipment, steam turbines, gas turbines and water treatment systems. 
- Routine work, to include: developing integrated systems designs and performing supporting calculations; preparing technical specifications for mechanical engineering equipment; preparing engineering studies; performing independent reviews of work performed by others, including calculations and drawing preparation; coordinating and providing guidance to other engineers, project managers, client personnel, and suppliers to ensure a complete and timely design; performing reviews of existing facilities to propose upgrades and replacements and presenting findings and recommendations to clients and peers; and mentoring less-experienced engineers. 
- Potential project management of smaller projects. 


- 10 or more years of experience in the design of mechanical engineering systems for non-commercial heavy-industrial plants (power or chemical), with a focus on integrated, detailed system design for new plants, modifications, or replacements. Past experience should include selection of equipment, piping materials, and control philosophy, as well as preparation of performance sizing calculations and specifications. Sound working knowledge of heat balances or piping design is a plus. 
- Candidates must hold a BSME or MSME degree from an ABET-accredited university; be able to coordinate their work with others; have good leadership, communication, analytical and organizational skills; and have experience in serving as firm/client liaison in a support or lead engineering role. 

Construction, commissioning, and start-up experience is a plus.


Instrumentation & Controls Engineer 
Department: Power Generation & Energy
Location: Jackson, MI
Reports to: Department Manager

This position offers you a great opportunity to be a part of an I&C engineering and design team engaged in design of distributed control systems, modifications to new and existing power generation facilities, and plant controls betterment projects. The ideal candidate will have experience with instrumentation and final control elements, distributed control systems, and programmable logic controllers as applied to power plant systems. Experience with logic diagrams, instrumentation installation details, piping and instrument diagrams, motor control schematics, specifications, studies, and cost estimating is desired. 

- 10+ years of applicable experience
- BS or MS degree in Engineering from an ABET-accredited university
- Registration as a professional engineer. 
- Must have good communication, analytical, organizational and computer skills and be able to coordinate your work with others. 

We are looking for a person who has leadership skills, pays attention to accuracy, is detail oriented, can be responsible for self-directed learning, consistently meets deadlines, is able to work on several projects at a time, and can deliver both large and small projects.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Engineering the future -- one young mind at a time

Mathcounts 2012 Competition

Young mathematicians square off in local Mathcounts competition

By Leanne Smith

JACKSON — Math comes easy to Justin Friedel.
Last year, as a seventh-grader, he aced algebra. This year, he's taking even more high school math classes.
But on Friday, the Napoleon Middle School eighth-grader found himself in the thick of it in the countdown round of the Jackson Mathcounts competition, where he had 45 seconds to correctly answer a tough story problem.
“It's a lot of pressure,” he said. “But I'm good at math so it's fun, too.”
Justin was among 88 mathematicians from Napoleon Middle School, Jackson Catholic Middle School, Trinity Lutheran School, Onsted Middle School, Grass Lake Junior High School, Western Middle School, Hillsdale Academy, Paragon Charter Academy, Olivet Middle School and the Middle School at Parkside who competed in the local Mathcounts competition at Jackson Community College.
Mathcounts is a national math competition club for middle school students. Teams compete locally for the chance to advance to state and national competition. The Jackson contest is led by the Jackson Chapter of the Michigan Society of Professional Engineers.
“We all earned a living with math,” said Rich Cottrell, a retired Consumers Energy engineer who serves as the Jackson chapter Mathcounts coordinator. “This gives us a chance to encourage young people good in math to keep at it.”
The day involves four rounds of either team or individual competitions that cover all aspects of math, from ratios and probability to fractions and percentages to algebra and geometry.
“I look forward to this,” said Maisey Schuler, a Parkside eighth-grader. “I like being able to work as a group. That's more fun.”
In the end, Western's team of Jacob Kuntzleman, Josiah Ottolini, Raegan Kennedy and Alex Garner came in first. Parkside's team of Schuler, Parker Wrzesinski, Kevin Zhang and Brandon Riggins was second.
Both advance to the state competition at Ferris State University on March 17, as will individual winner Ian Hines of Olivet.
Parkside's team is coached by Rob Wheeler, an engineer with Jackson's Commonwealth Associates Inc.
“We've had calculus three and calculus four in college and these kids can get the answers to these questions before we do,” Wheeler said. “It's humbling, but it's fun and it's amazing to watch these kids do math.”

Designing power delivery when and where you need it

File:Wenatchee WA 2009.jpg
Wenatchee, Washington


Friday, February 10, 2012
EAST WENATCHEE — The Douglas County PUD will begin work this summer on a new 230 kilovolt transmission line needed to more reliably keep the lights on as the city grows.
PUD spokeswoman Meaghan Vibbert said the $13 million line will stretch 13 miles from the utility’s Douglas Switchyard near Rocky Reach Dam up and across Badger Mountain and down to its Rapids Switchyard in Rock Island. Work should be finished in the summer of 2013.
The line will follow an established “transmission corridor” that already includes high-voltage lines owned by the Bonneville Power Administration, the Chelan County PUD and Puget Sound Energy.
Despite the new line’s origin near Rocky Reach Dam, the Douglas Substation connects to and carries electricity generated at the Douglas PUD’s Wells Dam, near Pateros on the Columbia River, Vibbert said.
The new line is necessary to bolster East Wenatchee’s existing delivery system, which studies have shown is vulnerable to overloads in some neighborhoods under certain conditions — a problem expected to worsen as the city grows.
The new line will bring the system up to federal energy reliability standards and reduce the likelihood of stress-caused outages or drops in voltage, known as “brown outs,” which cause lights to dim, according to information provided by Vibbert.
Commonwealth Associates Inc. of Mount Vernon is designing the project, which will be built on single, steel poles. A construction contract will be advertised and awarded in the coming weeks.
The new line is considered a large project for the PUD. Vibbert said that its estimated $13 million price tag is larger than the typical annual capital budget for the utility’s electric distribution system.

Christine Pratt: 665-1173


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Business Unit News - Power Generation & Energy Group

Barnes to lead veteran team as Commonwealth 
expands power generation services

JACKSON, MI – Commonwealth Associates, Inc. is pleased to announce that Samuel R. Barnes, P.E. has joined the company as Vice President of the Power Generation & Energy Group.  “With over 21 years’ experience in the design, installation, and project management of power generation projects, Sam is a tremendous asset to our team,” stated Commonwealth President, Dennis F. DeCosta, P.E. 

Barnes is a registered professional mechanical engineer in the state of Michigan and received his B.S. from the University of Michigan.  Prior to joining Commonwealth, he served as Vice President and Director of Engineering at HDR Engineering/Cummins & Barnard, Inc., in Ann Arbor.  DeCosta continued, “Sam brings the level of expertise in power generation that our clients have come to trust and expect from us in our other service areas, most notably our transmission and distribution work.  He was the obvious choice to lead our expansion into this area.”  “Commonwealth is an exceptional organization known in the industry for its technical excellence, strong client relationships, and professional integrity.  I am pleased to be able to serve in this new capacity and to build a best-in-class group for our clients,” commented Barnes.  Steven P. Yambor, P.E., widely considered a veteran in the power generation industry, stated, “Personally, I saw the vision, knew the potential, and, having previously worked with Sam, knew this was where I wanted to be.”

Commonwealth offers a complete package of engineering and consulting services for clients and is proud to be listed among the 2011 Top 40 Design Firms by EC&M Magazine and the 2011 Top 500 Design Firms by  The company maintains principal offices in Mount Vernon, Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; and Jackson, Michigan, along with satellites in Columbus and Dayton, Ohio and Roanoke, Virginia.

For more information:, please visit:
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Friday, February 3, 2012

Coal ash pond closing? What now? Find out in Baltimore!

ELECTRIC POWER 2012, which will be held this year from May 15-17, in Baltimore, Maryland, is the largest coal power conference in the U.S.  Commonwealth's own Sam Barnes Vice President of Power Generation & Energy, will be a featured speaker.  Don't miss it!  See details below.... 

EP12 Session 8B Water & Wastewater Issues
Wednesday, May 16
8:00 - 9:30 AM
Rm 328

This session explores current and anticipated solutions to environmental challenges associated with power plant wastewater, including case studies covering ash pond water and wet FGD blowdown treatment.  

Session Sub-Topics:
  • Wet FGD Blowdown Treatment
  • Coal Ash Pond Water Treatment
  • Wastewater Characterizations

Dr. Jerry Pell, Environmental Scientist. Project Manager; Office of Electricity (OE), U.S. Department of Energy
Ira Brodsky, AQCS Specialist, URS Corporation
Speaker(s):My Coal Ash Pond Will Be Closed - What Do I Do With the Wastewater?
Sam Barnes, Vice President - Power Generation and Energy, Commonwealth Associates, Inc.
Passive Treatment of Coal Ash Leachate
Eric McCleary, Restoration Ecologist, Greenhorne & O'Mara Inc.
The Current and Future Use of Deep Injection Well Technology in the Power Generation Industry
Edward McCullers, GM Deep Well Operations, Layne Christensen Company
David McNabb, CEO, McNabb Hydrogeologic Consulting, Inc.
Mark McNeal, CEO, ASRus, LLC
Chemistry Data Collection for Statistical Analysis
Matthew Heermann, Sargent & Lundy LLC

Speaker Bio

Sam Barnes is Vice President - Power Generation and Energy, Commonwealth Associates, Inc. He has 21 years of experience in the power industry. As a mechanical engineer and a project manager Sam has been involved in design, consulting and development of coal and gas fired plants. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a BSME and is a trustee on the board of Jackson Community College.

Best Practice Story:  Whether or not coal ash becomes classified as hazardous waste, coal plant owners may be looking at converting their ash systems from wet to dry for any number of reasons. But what does this do to the plant's water mass balance and where will the process wastewater go? There are some steps that should be followed so that all effects are taken into consideration. First, start by characterizing the plant's wastewater flows for both quantity and quality. Future considerations that could add or take away from wastewater generation must be documented. Once a clear picture of the amount and nature of wastewater is known, modifications can be reviewed that will minimize the amount of wastewater generated. Modifications may include both physical changes and operational changes. Once wastewater generation has been minimized, treatment before release to an outfall must be considered. The final step is evaluation of appropriate treatment options and choosing the one that balances compliance, project cost and operating and maintenance costs. This paper will also address upcoming regulatory issues that will likely decide the extent of treatment necessary. The most likely treatment scenarios will also be addressed.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

That's Music to Our Ears

Perks aplenty

It's official...

Commonwealth is cool!

Citing our Boiler Room Band, among other things, we snagged the coveted title of "Rockin' Place to Work."

Sure, we knew we like it, but there's something far cooler about seeing it in writing.

You can access the article here.

The Groundhog Has Spoken

You might not be aware that groundhog hairs are used for tying trout flies, such as the 'Chuck Caddis, or that early American Indians once used sturdy woodchuck hides for the soles of moccasins, but I bet you're aware that Phil saw his shadow again and it's six more weeks of winter!  That's why, about this time, you might want to consider a terrific Commonwealth job in our Atlanta office.  To find out what's available, click here.

Once you've done that, you might want to discover the other interesting facts about groundhogs you might not know:

Stay warm!