T&D World Magazine

Michael Beehler: Serving the People

When choosing a career, Michael Beehler combined two things he knew he liked: being outdoors and serving people. So he decided on civil engineering where he could be outdoors and he could build infrastructure to serve people.

He then selected the electric utility industry when his wife got her “dream job” in the same city that he had been offered a job: Tucson, Arizona. He went to work at Tucson Electric Power in 1981.

Now, as associate vice president of Burns & McDonnell Engineering Co., an international engineering consulting firm, Beehler still enjoys the outdoors and serving people. Burns & McDonnell plans, permits, designs, builds and secures power plants, transmission lines, substations, and telecommunication systems for electric utilities and industry.

“The best thing about my job right now is being a part of a team of professionals that work on the largest transmission projects in the country while still having the flexibility to strategically define and help implement the smart grid,” Beehler said.

Beehler shares his many years of experience and his vision for the future of the smart grid with students in the courses he teaches. He will be teaching two courses at Transmission & Distribution World University next month: Defining the Smart Grid and Contracting Strategies for Major Projects.

The smart grid course, scheduled for Oct. 27, outlines a straightforward and practical approach to meeting the goals of the smart grid definition by overviewing the major phases such as program management, remote equipment monitoring, NERC compliance, demand side management, etc.

The major projects class on Oct. 28 covers permitting, design and construction of these “mega-projects” that require transmission asset owners to closely examine methods for successfully completing the projects and develop a contracting strategy.

According to Beehler, the topics he will be presenting will help students understand how to better build electric systems that contribute to a sustainable future for generations to come.

“Electricity is part of the basic infrastructure that our nation and the world depends on for security, convenience and economic growth,” Beehler said.

Beehler has also taught courses on reliability-centered maintenance and critical infrastructure protection. He plans to teach on “lessons learned on mega-projects” in the future. Beehler tries to relay the importance of integrity and attitude to his students, and he suggests that students look for ways to innovate and add value in everything they do.

Beehler graduated from the University of Arizona in 1981 with a BS in civil engineering. He earned an MBA from the University of Phoenix in 1984. He has held various transmission engineering positions at Tucson Electric Power and the Hawaiian Electric Co. His technical experience includes design engineering and project management of both overhead and underground transmission and distribution lines through 345-kV in areas ranging from inaccessible mountain tops to crowded city streets.

Beehler believes that in all of his experience, right now is a “most exciting time for our industry. The future will bring a 765-kV transmission system much like our interstate highway system, a smart grid where we can send ‘prices to devices’ inside our homes and businesses and the replacement of internal combustion engine with plug-in hybrid electric vehicles,” he said.

Beehler’s favorite activities complement his career “nicely”: He enjoys hiking and gardening, traveling and reading.

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