It is no secret that for electric utilities vegetation control, especially tree trimming, is critical to reduce the frequency of downed wires and other power outage-causing scenarios. It is even more important in older neighborhoods where tree root structures may be weakening. There is no doubt about it; falling trees and branches are one of the most common causes of power outages in the U.S.
The New Age of Utility Tree Trimming
Proper tree trimming is so important for grid stability that the NJ Board of Public Utilities issued new guidelines for utilities in the state after Hurricane Sandy. These guidelines include new protocols for high voltage lines, a new requirement that tree branches are no closer than two feet above and below wires, more comprehensive trimming near substations, and a greater focus on removing dead or dying trees.
Of course, tree trimming is not the only way to harden the grid, but it is perhaps the most important tactic. According to the electric utilities in the state, the increased focus on vegetation management has reduced both the frequency and duration of power outages in the 5 years since Sandy. Click here for more detail on the specific efforts, costs and benefits of these efforts as reported by the state’s utilities.
That said, we do not live in a perfect world and there are downsides to this increased focus on tree maintenance. Overly-trimmed trees can look ugly, and could become imbalanced. Additionally, many municipalities have restrictions on tree maintenance, and homeowners are not always onboard with the efforts. But the bottom line is that the benefits of utility tree trimming clearly outweigh the downsides.