Loosing power is a burden – a burden the residents of Pocahontas County have suffered numerous times in the past few years. Whether it was from bad storms or downed trees, the power lines seemed to bow easily to the pressure.
In order to ensure that customers do not suffer long outages again, Mon Power had a solution – two day-long power outages. A way to fight fire with fire. On October 13 and 14, Mon Power crews spent hours working on 47 miles of power lines.
Mon Power representative Todd Meyer explained that the crews had two goals – to install new equipment and to clear trees and brush away from the power lines.
“We worked over the last year or so to devise a solution for this and so we can’t guarantee we won’t have an outage, but what we’ve done is we’ve added some automated switching systems that will help sectionalize the line,” Meyer said. “Let’s say a tree falls on the line – and that’s a fairly typical type of thing – what this new equipment will do – and we have it positioned in a number of different places – is it can detect the voltage on the line all the time. It’s sort of monitoring the condition of the line and when it detects a problem, it can take that section of line and automatically bring back customers in undamaged sections of the line.”
While it is impossible to say that there will never be another power outage, the new switching system will at least be able to lessen the number of customers affected during an outage or line issue.
“Instead of having one long line that may be impacted on one place, this new automated equipment can detect any problems over here, and it can isolate that problem,” Meyers said. “Maybe there’s forty-two miles of line that aren’t affected. It can feed electricity to them in a different way. They might all feel the outage initially but almost momentarily the rest can come back on.
“It shortens the duration of the outage for everybody for several reasons because most are able to be brought back into power quickly and automatically by the equipment itself, and then for those that are along a damaged section, the equipment can sort of locate it, and that way we’re not having to go all over this rugged terrain searching for something,” Meyer continued.
Included in that rugged terrain are trees, large trees. The crews took the proactive approach by cutting out brush and limbs that may have caused problems later.
“We did a lot of vegetation management – trimming trees and removing dead and damaged trees,” Meyer said. “You always need to have clearance. The branches of trees have to be a certain distance away from the electric line. That’s a transmission line so those corridors need to be wider and there’s more clearance because there’s more voltage.”
The cleared corridor creates a straight line from the floor of the forest to the sky.
“If you stood in the middle, we want you to be able to look straight up and see blue sky and not see any branches across,” Meyer said. “Trees are the number one cause of outages and we’ve been able to slow that by trimming trees and by controlling vegetation as needed. We can really cut down on the number of outages and certainly how long they take to fix.”
The project is 70 percent complete. Once finished, the project will have cleared a line that services nearly 6,000 customers, which includes residences and businesses.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at email@example.com