Power company to start tree-trimming program

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 8:45am
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Block Island Power Company President Jeffery Wright said the utility will soon be conducting what is called “hot-spotting,” a trimming of the island’s trees to ensure safety and reliability. Wright, who told The Block Island Times that the power company’s trimming program would begin in the fall, said the island has not had a “regular tree trimming maintenance cycle established for many years.”

Wright said the main reason for the trimming is “public safety and the threat of electrocution. Given the right conditions trees can act as a conductor and electricity can travel to the ground. Everyone should avoid trees that are near power lines whether they are in contact with the wires or not.”

“The catalyst for the program comes mostly from our job of ensuring everyone’s safety, but the secondary benefits are improved system reliability, better power quality and lower system losses,” said Wright. “System losses are simply lost product for us and we lose electricity through every branch that is touching the wires. None can estimate how much of our system loss comes from vegetation contact, but I guess anywhere from 1-to-2 percent. Our line workers are very supportive of the program as it can be tough to maintain the wires when they can’t get to them.” 

Wright added, “If anyone has a concern about trees on their property they can contact us anytime and we will dispatch our line crew to address the concern. If you anticipate that our work planner will be identifying trees on your property, you may call us anytime to discuss. We may just take your name and give it to our work planner but we’ll at least identify you as an important contact prior to working at your property.” 

“There are many locations where tree branches are in contact with the wires, posing both service reliability and safety concerns. This fall our plan is to trim these heavily vegetated sections along all of the main roads where our main distribution lines run. This will give us immediate results and benefit every customer. We call this ‘hot-spotting,’ a technique to tackle the most concerning areas while covering as many miles as possible with available funds.”

According to Wright, the new tree-trimming program is being funded out of the utility’s “existing budget, so at least this year’s costs will not result in any increase in rates for our customers. Once we get through the first year of hot-spotting and identify the work associated with a full annual cycle, we’ll have a better idea of the annual costs. If we need to increase the funding of the program we will most likely tap into some engine/generator maintenance funds that are available now that the generators are not being run regularly.”

Wright said that after the initial hot-spotting is done this year, the utility will continue to budget for it.

“Eventually, after five years we will have completed the entire system cycle and then it will be time to start over. The second cycle is normally less work and lower cost than the first cycle,” Wright said.

The goal with the program “is to establish well-maintained rights of way that are aesthetically pleasing, supports plant diversity, enhances wildlife habitat and provides every customer with good reliability, and ensure their safety when around our lines.”

Wright said the “tree trimming is a necessary function of every utility. Our goal is minimize the visual shock by taking the extra time to do a good job and keeping as much low growing vegetation as possible, especially along roadsides and homes. Our crews will all prune to the ANSI A300 Standards and each crew and work planner will be a certified utility arborist.”