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Vegetation Management: Saving Trees or Saving Lives?

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Nevelyn Black's picture
Writer, Independent

Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

  • Member since 2017
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  • May 26, 2023

Deadwood or dogwood?  Dandelion or daffodil? Linemen know their stuff when it comes to electrical engineering but knowing which plant is a giant weed growing too close to a power line versus a native plant that promotes a healthy eco-system is another task entirely.

Granted, utilities have vegetation management teams to keep power lines clear of trees but it’s not an easy job.  FirstEnergy has to manage 280,000 miles of lines in six different states. According to Dominion Energy, trees and tree limbs are the number one reason for power outages on its system.  One customer complained when plants on her property suffered at the hands of diligent utility workers determined to prevent wildfires. However, she facilitated a welcomed solution.  Dominion teamed up with the South Carolina Native Plant Society (SCNPS) to develop a list of native species that should be preserved whenever possible.  In 2018, FirstEnergy was recognized, for the 20th consecutive year, as a Tree Line USA utility by the National Arbor Day Foundation in the cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters.

New York Power Authority (NYPA) also works hard to preform regular preventive maintenance while promoting low growing plant species and preserving the areas wildlife and pollinator habitat.  NYPA is recognized as a "Right-of-Way Steward Utility" through the accreditation program of the Right-of-Way Stewardship Council.  The Council advocates for sustainable resource management principles and practices on North America’s electric transmission and pipeline corridors.

Summer will soon be here and the potential for wildfires will continue to climb.  As recent events have shown, vegetation management is vital in preventing wildfires.  “Our wildfire-mitigation plan is really to protect people, property and the natural environment,” said Kevin Putnam, PGE’s senior director of utility operations. “As Oregonians, we should all plan and we should all be prepared.”  $15 million is designated for vegetation management by PGE.  The utility will trim and remove trees that are dead or dying or jutting into overhead power lines.  The company is also using 26 panoramic AI-enhanced cameras and will soon add 10 more.

How is your utility saving trees and saving lives?  What partnerships has your utility embraced to prepare for the season?  Are utilities doing too much or not enough?


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