Keep squirrels off our lines
- Dec 30, 2021 9:08 pm GMT
Human intuition is far from perfect, especially when it comes to prioritizing risks. I know many people who are more scared of mass shooters than they are of merging onto the freeway, for example. As this relates to transmission, observers rightfully fret about melting lines in the North West and laborious development processes that slow down important infrastructure projects. However, I see very little about one specific problem that’s hamstrung our transmission system since the beginning: I’m talking about squirrels.
In 2016, squirrels caused 3,456 outages in the U.S. alone. In 2005, a german squirrel fried itself on some lines in the town of Elster, knocking out a huge swath of power in eastern Germany. These incidents are most common in the fall and spring, but they can really happen at any time. Sometimes the little critters spark outages by merely venturing into the wrong places, but usually they cause destruction by chewing on equipment. Their proclivity for chewing is hard to circumvent, as they can munch through many of the different shields utilities use to keep them out. Some savvy power companies use trip savers, devices that detect interference on the lines and temporarily power them down. While they help, trip savers are far from a cure-all.
With all the noise made and money spent on modernizing our grid, barely a peep has been made about keeping squirrels off our lines. Am I right in thinking the return on research investment might be pretty sweet on this specific problem? I’d love to know what you think.
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