Southern Company employees recognized in PUF’s 2019 Top Innovators Awards

November 18, 2019

Southern Company is dedicated to Superior Performance throughout our business. Our strong focus on innovative solutions is brought to life by the imaginative work of our employees. Several groups and individuals were recognized by Public Utilities Fortnightly magazine in their 2019 Top Innovators list.

Fortnightly Foremost Innovator—Clifton Black

As noted in the magazine, this year's Fortnightly Top Innovators are ten individuals, among forty-three nominations, selected for outstanding work in customer service, distributed resources, energy efficiency, environmental care, infrastructure safety, new technologies, regulatory effectiveness, smart grid, system efficiency and utility culture.

This year's Fortnightly Foremost Innovator in new technologies is Clifton Black, Principal Engineer for Southern Company Research and Development. Black established a grid visualization and analytics center to expeditiously demonstrate and evaluate new power grid technologies.

Fortnightly sat down with Black to discuss what makes a top innovator and how his fourteen years with Southern Company guided him along the way. Read Fortnightly’s full interview with Black.

Fortnightly Top Innovators 2019

Public Utilities Fortnightly published the following on Southern Company’s innovators.

The forty-six qualifying nominations for this year's Fortnightly Top Innovators included one hundred and thirty-seven innovators. Twenty-three of the nominations — exactly half of them — were of an individual innovator. The remaining twenty-three nominations were of a group of innovators. The groups ranged from small two-person teams to large teams with as many as a dozen team members. Below are 15 individuals or groups recognized from Southern Company.

 

Steve Baxley, Carl Jackson, Southern Company

Baxley and Jackson are providing innovative leadership and technical expertise for testing, development, and deployment of a diverse portfolio of energy storage technologies. They were instrumental in several breakthrough projects, including the Energy Storage Research Center in Birmingham, Alabama - a plug and play network for third-party innovators, the McCrary Battery Energy Storage Demonstration in Pensacola, Florida - for understanding the siting, installation, and operational requirements of commercial and industrial-scale energy storage systems, and the Alabama Power and Georgia Power Smart Neighborhoods in Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Clifton Black, Southern Company

As a principal engineer in the Power Delivery group, Dr. Black established the Schatz Grid Visualization and Analytics Center. It is intended to bridge the industrywide gap in the ability to demonstrate and evaluate new power grid technologies and enable solutions to be deployed quickly and configurations to be altered easily reducing research and development time and cost. The Center also fosters collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute, U.S. Department of Energy national labs, academia and technology providers.

 

Cole Cremeen, Terry O'Malley, Randell Moore, Southern Company

Operators at a major plant of Mississippi Power noticed alarms and faults were being generated requiring connecting to the relay on-site issuing the alarm or fault. This team developed a new protection interface with advanced data to speed diagnosis and recovery from faults. The time it takes to fix issues when an alarm is triggered was up to three hours, but this has been reduced to just an hour.

 

JoLynda Daugherty, Camille Holland, Wendell Ivey, Michelle Warrick, Southern Company

Ivey and his team saw that five different plants in Mississippi were processing invoices separately with the same documentation, past due, rate discrepancy, and vendor terms and condition issues. They streamlined and consolidated the processes with subject matter experts invoice reconcilers.

 

Morgan Henderson, Elizabeth Liveoak, Kevin Tate, Southern Company

Previously, when there were newly-submitted transmission service requests, the Open Access Same Time Information Systems and Operations Planning groups coordinated to determine the appropriate actions. This legacy process was inefficient, time-consuming, and prone to human performance issues. So the team developed a new web-based software system to improve and simplify transmission service requests workflow and provide a clear audit trail. The OAM Request Workflow tool now clearly communicates the status of all transmission service requests.

 

Justin Schilling, Ross Wehner, Southern Company

During last winter, there were concerns about the ability to meet customer demand on a peak winter day. The team worked together to create the company's first-ever cross-commodity optimization deal - selling some natural gas assets from one region to another for greater value to pay for an additional five hundred and twenty megawatts of generating capacity - to enhance reliability and minimize customer cost during extreme cold.