Nelu Andrei has a cool job. As an engineering manager in DTE’s electric distribution unit, he oversees a group that works to ensure the equipment on the top of poles is safe and resilient. Each day, Andrei’s team helps provide DTE customers reliable energy.

Like most jobs, you can have your good days, your bad days and your really rewarding days. Some days are extra special, especially when you receive the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) Technology Transfer Award.

Each year, EPRI, a globally-recognized research institute, gathers energy companies from all over the nation to identify and address challenges including the reliability, resiliency and safe operation of the electric system. Once they create a portfolio for the year, EPRI conducts research, finds solutions and works with the energy companies to test their findings.

Andrei served as project champion for “Validation of Overhead Distribution Design for Improved Reliability and Resiliency”. With 11 colleagues from 11 different energy companies, Andrei piloted the program at DTE and won! What does it mean though?

During inclement weather, a tree or branch may fall and impact a wire, crossarm (what holds up power lines and other electrical equipment at the top of a pole) or an entire pole. When the tree pulls down a wire, it puts pressure on the crossarm and may lead to the crossarm or pole breaking. Andrei implemented EPRI’s research in transitioning wood crossarms to fiberglass brackets to better support the power lines on the pole. 

Transitioning to fiberglass brackets increases reliability and reduces restoration time. When a branch or tree falls on a wire, most of the time only one bracket will take the impact and break. The risk of an entire pole breaking is significantly reduced, and the restoration time is 20% faster since only one bracket will need replacement rather than an entire crossarm. The faster DTE can get the lights back on, the better.

“It’s cool and humbling that the work my team and I do every day can result in winning an award from a research institute known around the world,” Andrei said. “I’m grateful that DTE allows me to participate in these sorts of projects every year that improves our infrastructure and provides more reliable energy to our customers.”

To learn more, check out DTE’s commitment to safe, reliable and affordable energy for all.