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Saving the Eagles

image credit: Image © FirstEnergy Corp.
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Penelec Installs Equipment on Power Lines to Prevent Collisions

Penelec, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., has placed special warning markers on a long stretch of power line in the Erie National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania, to ensure bald eagles avoid in-flight collisions with the wires that could cause power outages.

“The biology, behavior and habitat use of raptor species puts them at risk of colliding with transmission and distribution wires,” said Amy Ruszala, an environmental scientist and avian expert at FirstEnergy. “Avian flight diverters provide a thickness to the line that makes it easier for birds to see and avoid. This project is the latest in our ongoing efforts to enhance service reliability for customers while protecting raptors and birds of prey that often live near our electrical equipment.”

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These magnificent birds often fly near power lines while traveling from their nests to find food, and even with their superb eyesight can run into them, causing harm to bird and power line.

Image © FirstEnergy Corp.

From a hovering helicopter, contractors clipped avian flight diverters every 15 feet along the 1,200-foot span of wire high above a marsh in the Erie National Wildlife Refuge. The triangular flight diverters are brightly colored and reflective, making it easier for eagles to spot the line.

Penelec crews installed the flight diverters after first replacing several 50-foot poles with two 120-foot structures where a power line traverses a swampy section of the refuge in Randolph Township. The line, which feeds electricity to the Northwestern Rural Electrical Cooperative (REC) Association’s distribution network, was challenging to repair and maintain because the shorter poles were in the water. The new pylons were built at each edge of the swamp to replace the previous shorter poles.

One of the new pylons stands adjacent to a white pine tree, home to a pair of bald eagles that have returned to their massive nest each year since 2014. Penelec crews performed the construction work after the nesting season ended.

This is one of over 100 projects that FirstEnergy have completed over the last five years to protect birds of prey, including creating nesting platforms, insulating wires near perches, and visual markers like this project.

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