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Power company going out on a limb to lower outages


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Officials for Mon Power say a new tree-trimming regimen instituted in 2014 appears to be working to help limit power outages from storms.

“Three years into our enhanced vegetation management program, our customers are experiencing fewer tree-related outages as we have trimmed more than one million trees along 14,000 miles of electric lines to the new ground-to-sky standards,” said Holly Kauffman, president of FirstEnergy’s West Virginia Operations. “In the areas where the new trimming specifications have been used, there have been 33 percent less 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.”

Crews for Mon Power, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy, have already trimmed trees along more than 1,100 miles of power lines in West Virginia this year as part of a $72 million vegetation management program, and intend to trim along another 3,400 miles by the end of the year.

Launched in mid-2014, the enhanced tree trimming program focuses on trimming trees near distribution lines in rural areas and along transmission lines to enhance service reliability. The enhanced program involves trimming trees ground to sky, which helps reduce the risk of overhanging limbs getting into electrical equipment and causing outages, according to Mon Power.

According to Mon Power, FirstEnergy almost doubled the number of tree-trimming contractors in the Mon Power area from 640 to almost 1,200. Forestry crews use hand-operated tools, saws, mowers, aerial helicopter saws and EPA-approved herbicide applications to trim trees and maintain vegetation along FirstEnergy’s distribution and transmission networks.

Clearing incompatible vegetation under power lines results in easier access for company personnel to inspect and maintain lines and make repairs sooner if an outage occurs.

Mon Power serves about 385,000 customers in 34 West Virginia counties. Tree-trimming operations are scheduled in 24 of them by the end of the year.

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