ASHLAND, Ky. — The tree-covered mountainous terrain that gives eastern Kentucky its character can threaten electric service if not maintained.
Since 2010, Kentucky Power’s aggressive tree trimming efforts have reduced outages inside the right of way by 70%. But trees outside of the right of way remain an issue. Trees outside the right of way cause about 51% of customer outages. Only 2% of outages are caused by trees within the right of way.
Problems with trees outside the right of way is why Kentucky Power has committed to trim 16,000 trees out of the right of way in 2020. Trees and limbs that come in contact with power can become energized or even break and fall, bringing the lines down with them. Regular trimming of trees and brush along power lines reduces the number of outages as well as temporary blinks.
“We are enhancing our efforts to remove as many dangerous trees outside of the right of way as we can this year,” 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.”
Electricity interruptions can occur when branches break and fall across power lines, or when trees tumble onto power lines. When strong winds blow, limbs growing too close to power lines may sway and touch wires, causing blinks in power. Dangerous trees are trees outside the right of way that are dead, dying, diseased, severely leaning or growing in a manner that could damage electrical facilities when falling.
“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 and its contractors prune 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. The company provides electric service to about 165,000 customers.
Kentucky Power, with headquarters in Ashland, Kentucky, is an operating company in the AEP system, one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity and custom energy solutions to nearly 5.4 million customers in 11 states. AEP also owns the nation’s largest electricity transmission system. AEP’s headquarters are in Columbus, Ohio.