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Electric companies use maintenance to trim power outages

February 22, 2014
By Erika Platt-Handru - Staff Writer ( , The Advertiser-Tribune

In an effort to reduce power outages, electric companies rely on regular tree trimming as a preventative step.

Terry Mazzone, director of communications and community relations for North Central Electric Cooperative, said trimming trees along rights-of-way helps keep the number of power outages to a minimum.

"We do trim trees on a regular basis," he said. "And it has greatly reduced outages."

Mazzone said North Central Electric Cooperative always has trimmed trees along rights-of-way, and because of the regular maintenance, only three percent of the company's outages that occurred during the 10 last years have been related to trees coming into contact with power lines.

"We try and go through the entire system once every three to four years," Mazzone said of the trimming process. "We work really hard keeping trees clear of our lines."

Because outages not only cost the company money, but also cost consumers money, North Central Electric Cooperative tries to keep outages at a minimum, Mazzone said. He said on average, 333 power outages were reported each year over the past decade. Last year, 292 outages were reported, Mazzone said.

"We'd be a lot lower if it weren't for the ice storm in 2005," he said.

Weather, in general, causes most of the outages, Mazzone said, but another cause is vehicles running into poles.

"Sometimes it's just equipment failure, but that doesn't happen a lot," he said. "Most of it is weather related."

Another recent measure that also has helped reduce outages has been reducing the space between power poles.

"That's reduced a lot of stress on the lines," Mazzone said.

Mazzone said consumers also can help reduce the number of outages by carefully planning their landscaping around power poles.

"It's also important where people plant trees, you don't want to plant trees near power lines," he said.

Vikki Michalski, a spokeswoman for American Electric Power, said AEP also performs regular tree trimming all year long.

"Every four years, we come back and clear lines," she said of the cycle of trimming.

Michalski said tree contact is one of the main causes of power outages and AEP works hard at keeping rights-of-way clear. The company also prioritizes areas based on the frequency of tree-related outages and their effects on customers, she said.

According to information from AEP, the company's objective during routine tree trimming is to remove obstructions from within the rights-of-way to provide a minimum of 10 feet clearance on both sides of the lines.



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