Terra Spectrum Technologies Technology Consultant Nathan Jones wrote an article titled “Caught in the Storm: Proactive Approach to Vegetation Management.” The article was published in the 2016 July/August issue of the Utility Arborist Newsline.
As a service to their customers, almost every utility provides safety tips to help guide them in the event of a storm related power outage. Some utilities provide exhaustive lists of things to do, and some take a more philosophical approach to outage preparation.
Some of the most common suggestions are:
These are all great suggestions, and should all be followed if you wish to pass the storm with as little inconvenience as possible. By the same token, progressive utilities use vegetation management
to help prepare for extreme weather conditions. VM operations are typically one of the largest expenditures for electric utilities. The methods and philosophies in which different utilities conduct those operations, however, vary greatly. Any utility that is earnestly interested in the reliability of their system will consistently keep storm resiliency in mind with their practices in year-round daily operations. Trees should not just be pruned with current and future conditions in mind, but also how the trees will react to extreme storm conditions. Overhang needs to be pulled back, exposed or weak root systems need to be identified and the tree removed if risk is unacceptable, and weak crotches need to be identified and addressed. If utilities give into the temptation to let problem trees slide, the entire system becomes more and more vulnerable.
The term “storm hardening” means different things to different departments within a utility, but to vegetation managers, it means getting tougher on clearance guidelines and identifying hazardous trees outside of the normal right-of-way (ROW).
Here are three steps that we’ve found to be helpful:
If not, these suggestions might be helpful in working toward a more storm-resilient power system.
When it’s 80 degrees and sunny, it is easy to go about your business and let a few borderline trees slide. However, hurricane season, heavy spring snows, and summer thunderstorms are right around the corner. Take a few extra moments to imagine how that tree that isn’t trimmed to specifications will look with 12 inches of wet snow on it and a 40 mph gust blowing. Of course no system can be 100 percent immune to storm related outages, but with a little attention to detail throughout the year, you can be well on your way to significantly reducing the number and duration of vegetation caused outages. Just don’t forget to actually enjoy it when it’s 80 degrees and sunny!