West Florida Electric Cooperative (WFEC) employees stand ready to serve our member-owners when severe weather strikes. Animal activities, fallen trees and branches on power lines cause the majority of the outages in WFEC’s service area. The co-op works year-round on clearing rights-of-way to reduce the risk that lines are damaged by trees, branches or other vegetation, but even maintaining our rights-of-way can’t stop this from happening.
Here’s a recent example:
The co-op has a distribution line that serves members from the substation north of Chipley to south of Wausau and beyond. This line brings power to approximately 2,018 members in that district. Members on this section of line recently experienced an outage during a storm because a pine tree broke off about six feet in the air and fell across a line. This particular section of line was very difficult to access because it was in a very wet, swampy area and very remote. Our extremely heavy line trucks couldn’t be driven into the area because of the wetlands and the likelihood they’d get stuck, so our linemen had to hike to the area while carrying all the equipment and gear they needed to remove the tree and repair the lines. Then, after all repairs were completed, the crews had to return to the substation to fully restore power to the line.
Despite our best efforts, damage can occur to transmission systems, substations and power lines. When this happens, our first priority is to safely restore power to as many members as possible in the shortest amount of time. To do this, WFEC crews begin restoring power to member-owners in a specific sequence. This is a fine-tuned process aimed at tackling the biggest issues first, until every member has power.
The big problems are handled first – damage to transmission lines, which can serve thousands of people. These problems must be corrected before our focus can be moved to more localized damage. 40579002
Our crews inspect substations next to determine if the problem starts there or if there’s an issue down the line. If the root of the problem is at the substation, power can be restored to thousands of members at one time.
Linemen then work to repair the three-phase, main circuit feeders, leading from the substations. These feeder lines carry electricity away from the substation to a group of members, such as those in a subdivision or neighborhood. When power is restored at this stage, all members served by the feeder line could see the lights come on, as long as there isn’t a problem farther down the line.
Next, the first sets of breakers on a section of line are fixed. Each section is then energized before moving on to the next set of breakers while gradually working out to the single-phase taps. The closer a home is to the substation, the sooner power will be restored to that home.
The final stage of restoration is the final supply lines or service lines. These carry power from the transformer on poles or underground to houses or other buildings. Line crews tackle those outages based on restoring service to the greatest number of members.
Sometimes damage can occur on the service line between your house and the transformer on a nearby pole. This may explain why you might not have power when your neighbor does. WFEC needs to know if you observe damage here so that our crews can repair it. Don’t assume someone has already reported an outage impacting you – check the online outage map (www.westflorida.coop/outages) or go ahead and contact the cooperative to report it yourself.
Even though the co-op’s technology has improved greatly over the years, our linemen still sometimes have to search for the culprits causing outages (like in the previous example where our linemen found a tree on a line in the middle of a swamp).
So the next time you see a line crew in your neighborhood, they may be looking for the problem causing the outage. Just because you can’t see a tree on the line or a blown fuse or transformer in your immediate area, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one just down the road causing a problem for everyone.
Our linemen will never leave an area without restoring power to the members who live there unless there is an issue they cannot control, such as having to stop working due to deteriorating weather conditions, mandatory rest periods (which keep them safe) or damage on the members’ side of the meter, which prevents them from safely restoring power to the home. 100748001
Did you know that even a lightning strike on a transmission line miles away could cause a blink or interruption in your service? It is important to note that when you see a momentary interruption or blink in service during a thunderstorm, that blink or interruption is our equipment working properly to prevent a large-scale outage and to protect our transformers and other equipment. When a fault doesn’t clear, then you experience an outage.
WFEC line crews are always ready to tackle power outages that may occur due to weather or other elements no matter the time of day or night. Outages are an unavoidable circumstance, but we strive to restore power as quickly as we possibly can, while maintaining the safety of our linemen. Please remember we never know what they may encounter while in the field working to make repairs – it could be a car accident, it could be a downed power line in a very remote area or trees on lines. It could even be something unusual like an animal creating a fault – something as small as a squirrel or snake can cause a lot of damage to lines and equipment. No matter the cause, our hard-working linemen will make the necessary repairs in a specific order which has been designed to restore power to as many members as possible.