Juno Beach, Fla. - At seven years old, LaMargo "Margie" Sweezer-Fischer was exposed to the secrets of the universe and she’s never been the same since.
A school field trip to the nation’s flagship particle physics laboratory, Fermilab, placed her in the middle of a massive particle accelerator and intricate scientific experiments exploring dark matter, quantum science, neutrinos and particle acceleration.
“That day shaped my interest in science and technology,” she said. “It painted a vivid picture of what is possible when human creativity meets technology.”
Raised in Chicago's tech hub, her fascination for innovation and curiosity for science was kindled at a young age.
It led her to the world of mathematics, a subject she first struggled with, but with a little after-school tutoring, the concepts just clicked. By the time Sweezer-Fischer was graduating high school, she was at the top of her class, a frequent math tutor and a competition-winning mathlete.
That spark led her to Tuskegee University where she continued tutoring in math, chemistry and physics, was president of the math honor society for several years and graduated with honors with an electrical engineering degree, and eventually to NextEra Energy, the world's largest energy company, where she is leading the nation’s clean energy revolution.
“I had no idea I would play such a pivotal role in the energy sector,” Sweezer-Fischer said about her accomplishments in the field. “I joined our company years ago because I simply wanted to be in a place that I knew I could grow and make a positive impact.”
For the past 24 years at NextEra Energy, Sweezer-Fischer’s career has been characterized by innovation and growth. The technology enthusiast has patented new tech revolutionizing wind turbines with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and enhanced Florida’s electrical grid with smart technology.
Today, she’s the vice president of operations for NextEra Energy Transmission (NEET), where’s she’s spearheading an energy sector ripe for disruption.
The unsung hero of the clean energy revolution: power transmission, which transfers electricity from its place of generation to a customer’s home or business, forms the vital backbone that will ensure renewable energy is available to every household.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there’s a “pressing need” for new electric transmission infrastructure across the country to connect a rapidly growing number of solar, wind and battery storage projects. These sites are currently far from cities and existing power grids.
“Growth in transmission is essential in order for us to manage the growth that's happening on the renewables side,” Sweezer-Fischer said. “It’s the key to unlock our industry’s shift to clean energy.”
In order for communities to reap the benefits of renewable energy, the nation needs thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines that would span multiple states.
It's an essential yet complex task, but this isn't Sweezer-Fischer's first venture into revolutionizing the energy industry.
The godmother of the smart grid
Sweezer-Fischer’s innovative spirit has positioned her as a trailblazer in the realm of energy technology.
In 2014, her visionary leadership helped revolutionize Florida Power & Light Company’s (FPL) smart grid. FPL is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, and also America’s largest electric utility serving more than 12 million people in Florida.
She helped unlock additional value from smart meters and implement intelligent devices, such as automated feeder switches, automated lateral switches and additional sensing technologies offering FPL complete control of its electric grid from a remote location.
Now, FPL can fix issues automatically at the touch of a button or prior to a customer even seeing an issue.
This helped reduce outages, not only during a typical day, but especially during adverse weather conditions like the hurricanes and tropical storms Florida is prone to, making FPL the most reliable electric utility in America seven out of the eight years following.
Recently, she and a small team of NextEra Energy engineers filed a patent for an AI control system she co-invented for wind turbines, making them more efficient.
It monitors wind speed and direction and uses machine learning to adjust how the turbine should be positioned to maximize power generation.
"It’s interesting because I've had a chance to serve in the full scope for what it means to generate power and deliver it to customers,” Sweezer-Fischer said. “In the 24-year span of my career, I’ve worked in all aspects of keeping the lights on, from transmission to integrated supply chain management, distribution and power generation.”
Since her return to the transmission sector as vice president of operations, NextEra Energy Transmission has expanded into Canada as well as various states across the nation including California, Nevada, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana and New York.
But under Sweezer-Fischer's guidance, NextEra Energy Transmission is not just transmitting electricity; it's transmitting a vision of a cleaner and more sustainable future.
In much the same way Sweezer-Fischer revolutionized the smart grid in Florida, she now aims to lead a similar transformation in power transmission nationwide proving that NextEra Energy Transmission is far more than an energy company, but an advanced technology incubator.
“We're confident that we'll continue to lead the way in clean energy delivery and pave the path towards a sustainable future,” said Matt Valle, president, NextEra Energy Transmission. “By investing in innovative technologies and embracing a forward-thinking mindset, we're not only improving our operations but also scaling transmission across North America that is stronger and smarter.”
Some of the innovations being evaluated by Sweezer-Fischer’s team include advanced conductor materials that can boost power-carrying capacity without the need for extensive infrastructure upgrades.
Sweezer-Fischer also champions the integration of digital technologies, smart sensors and data analytics into transmission systems, offering real-time monitoring and predictive maintenance for improved reliability. This is critical because transmission infrastructure can be subject to extreme weather events like hurricanes, earthquakes, elevated normal temperatures, blizzards and more.
NextEra Energy Transmission has introduced innovative designs, including seismic isolators for electrical equipment during earthquakes and galloping mitigation devices for icy events, ensuring systems stay up and running, no matter the weather. It also implemented robots for equipment inspections in areas with minimal access.
Her commitment to clean energy, coupled with her track record of success, positions her as a driving force behind the clean energy movement in the United States.
“It's great because we know what our north star is and the direction that we need to go,” Sweezer-Fischer said. “We know that transitioning into wind, sun and other renewable sources is not only great for the environment, but necessary for the generations that are coming behind us.”