Kentucky Power has several programs in place to tackle trees both inside and outside of the rights of way, reducing outage length and duration for its 165,000 customers spread across eastern Kentucky.
In 2010 Kentucky Power introduced an enhanced vegetation management program and has since removed more than two million trees. The program rotates on a five-year cycle, meaning trees and brush are cut by circuit every five years helping to maintain rights of way and ultimately clear trees out of the way of power lines and other equipment.
But now the attention has turned to trees outside of the maintained rights of way, which accounted for 46% of all power outages last year in Kentucky Power’s service territory alone. Kentucky Power works with property owners to undertake an effort to mitigate trees outside of the rights of way that threaten power lines and other equipment, an important step to further improving reliability.
“We are increasing our efforts to remove as many dangerous trees outside of the right of way as we can,” said Everett Phillips, vice president Distribution Region Operations. “The challenge is we have steep terrain so the tree outside the right of way may be 100 feet away, but if it comes down in a storm or for another reason, it can still reach our lines. And when it does, it falls with force and causes more damage than trees closer to our lines. More damage takes longer to repair and restore service.”
Being able to remove and trim trees away from our lines is critical to reduce the number of outages and also reduce the length of time it takes to restore power, said Phillips.
“We work with the property owner to remove problem trees,” Phillips said. “The bigger issue for us is the number of diseased trees. There’s the emerald ash borer beetle that threatens ash trees, root rot and oak wilt fungus. These diseases cause trees to became weak and fall outside the right of way much more frequently than in the past. That’s why we are being proactive.”
Kentucky Power prunes trees to industry standards that were developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). Kentucky Power uses only qualified line clearance companies that hire qualified workers to prune trees near power lines.
“Tree trimming is essential to improve system reliability. Anything we can do to get ahead of an outage is our goal, and tree trimming is a proven strategy to reduce service interruptions.”
Kentucky Power maintains 10,030 miles of distribution line and 1,283 miles of transmission line in 20 eastern Kentucky counties.