By SARAH GOODRICH
Times West Virginian
FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Mon Power’s $72 million vegetation-management program is underway and consists of tree trimming along 4,500 miles of lines to help enhance reliability.
Since the beginning of the year, tree contractors have trimmed more than 1,100 miles of distribution and transmission line in the Mon Power area.
According to the press release, “The work is done to help maintain proper clearances around electrical equipment and help protect against tree-related outages.”
The tree-trimming program, which was launched mid-2014, involves trimming trees ground to sky. The technique of ground to sky helps reduce the risk of overhanging limbs getting into electrical equipment and causing outages, reads the press release.
Holly Kauffman, president of FirstEnergy’s West Virginia Operations, said, “Three years into our enhanced vegetation-management program, our customers are experiencing fewer tree-related outages as we have trimmed more than 1 million trees along 14,000 miles of electric lines to the new ground-to-sky standards.”
She explained that in the areas where the new trimming specifications have been used, there have been 33 percent fewer tree-related outage minutes compared to the 2013 baseline before the program started.
“We expect the favorable trend to continue as more miles are trimmed to more rigorous specifications,” she said.
Several counties in the state will treated to the enhanced vegetation management program. Fairmont will be the prime focus for Marion County.
“In Fairmont we have about a 100 miles of distribution line to tackle this year,” said Todd Meyers, FirstEnergy’s news media contact.
Though the end result of trimming trees may look a bit harsh, Meyers said the process is done in an effective way so branches do not grow back onto the power lines.
“But it’s what we need to do to keep things reliable and to keep the electricity flowing to the towns and to all those people along those lines that depend on the power,” he said.
Forestry crews use hang-operated tools, saws, mowers, aerial helicopter saws and Environmental Protection Agency-approved herbicide applications to trim trees and maintain vegetation along FirstEnergy’s distribution and transmission networks, reads the press release.
Meyers said the hope for this project is to limit power outages and if they do happen to shorten the time without service.
He mentioned that crews may have already trimmed trees in the area.
“So it’s really impossible for me to say exactly when they will be where because they move around quite a bit and because each of those areas has more than one line that they may be scheduled to be trimmed different times of the year, and that schedule can be changed depending on what we find somewhere else,” Meyers said.
Tree work under the enhanced program is expected to end in 2019, according to the news release. Cycles in future years will be determined after the results of the initial work are evaluated.
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