West Florida Electric Cooperative (WFEC) delivers power to a system of approximately 4,800 miles of overhead power lines in four counties. Maintaining the right-of-way on that many miles of line is a process that takes time – however, it is a very important process because when trees interfere with power lines, reliability and safety are compromised.
WFEC has an aggressive right-of-way strategy which entails cutting rights-of-ways near power lines by cutting from ground to sky. It is very important to remove trees, branches, and brush from all rights-of-ways because they might:
1) Cause power outages
2) Cause lights to blink
3) Become a safety hazard for members
4) Obstruct visual inspections, making repairs difficult and costly
5) Block access for maintenance and repairs, causing delays
6) Waste electricity by drawing it into the ground
7) Become a fire hazard
Right-of-way (ROW) maintenance keeps tree limbs and other obstacles away from high-voltage power lines. Vegetation like trees, shrubs and brush growing too close to power lines and distribution equipment lead to about sixty percent of all power interruptions. These interruptions can occur when branches break and fall across lines or when trees fall onto them. When strong winds blow, limbs growing too close to lines may sway and touch them.
Trees growing into and touching power lines also pose a major safety hazard not only for WFEC linemen, but also for members and their families. Trees that come into contact with power lines may become energized and if touched, could shock or electrocute someone. Our primary concern is the safety of our workers and members. Properly maintained ROW keeps our crews safe when they are restoring service and maintaining our system. Keeping trees clear of power lines also keeps your family safe. From making sure a child’s tree house doesn’t hit power lines to creating a safe environment while doing yard work, a well-maintained ROW helps avoid tragedy.
To reduce tree-related problems, line crews and contractors look for foliage growing under lines, overhanging branches, leaning or other types of “danger” trees and trees growing into lines. This is a job that is never done – by the time crews finish trimming along the 4,800 miles of power lines, vegetation has started growing back at the starting point. This is currently a five-year cycle.
WFEC respects your property and decides how to trim trees based on the amount of clearance needed around wires, the line voltage, the tree’s growth rate and the right-of-way maintenance cycle (how frequently trimming along the line is performed).
Clear rights-of-way give line crews the ability to respond to storm damage with minimal disruption of electricity and allow safe access to the power lines. They also reduce outage times and improve system reliability and reduce safety hazards. A well-maintained ROW leads to fewer outages and faster response times. When trees fall, crews are able to restore service more quickly than they could with poorly maintained areas.
When right-of-way (ROW) crews are trimming in your area, there may be several days between ROW cutting & clean-up crews due to inclement weather, equipment failure or other unforeseen circumstances. If you have any questions about the cooperative’s right-of-way/vegetation management program, please contact us at (800) 342-7400.