PECO Aims to Reduce Outages Caused By Trees With $35 Million in Trimming, Clearing Around Power Lines
With 30 percent of power outages caused by trees last year, PECO will spend $35 million this year for clearing trees around power lines, particularly in the suburban counties across southeastern Pennsylvania. In addition to storm cleanup, the preventive tree trimming is intended to reduce outages caused by trees growing into aerial power lines or tree limbs that fall on to overhead lines.
PECO delivers electricity on more than 2,300 distribution circuits that serve its 1.6 million customers. The circuits are patrolled for tree trimming on a cyclical basis. The spending on its vegetation management program is one of the key components of PECO’s preventive maintenance program for electric service reliability. The vegetation management projects planned for this year will directly benefit more than 200,000 customers.
Doreen Masalta, director, Project and Contract Management, said PECO allocates substantial funding and personnel resources for vegetation management since tree contact remains the most common cause of outages affecting customers and the investment yields benefits. “We trim for electric service reliability, and we adhere to national arboricultural standards for how the work is done,” she said.
The largest scope of work will take place in Chester County with crews trimming along nearly 1,400 miles of utility right-of-way, covering areas from Malvern in the East to Coatesville in the West in addition to West Chester, Downingtown and surrounding communities.
Work will be completed early in the year in Delaware County where crews are working along nearly 250 miles of aerial lines in communities west of Media. Crews also will work to improve electric reliability in Peach Bottom and Lower Chanceford townships in York County.
In Bucks County, crews will be centered mainly at the company’s Buckingham and Emilie (in Levittown) substations, trimming along roughly 900 miles of aerial lines that run through Buckingham, Solebury, New Hope, Plumstead, Bedminster, Dublin, New Britain, Doylestown, Wrightstown, and portions of Northampton, Falls, Middletown, and Bristol townships. Additionally, customers will benefit from trimming in portions of Bensalem, Lower and Upper Southampton.
In Montgomery County, customers in Upper Merion, East and West Norriton, and portions of Lower Providence and Worcester will benefit from PECO tree trimming, as well as Lower and Upper Moreland, Bryn Athyn, Upper Dublin, Abington, Cheltenham, Jenkintown, Springfield and Whitemarsh townships.
PECO also will clear vegetation from under about 230 miles of high-voltage transmission line right-of-ways across the region. Under guidelines from the International Society of Arboriculture and the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC), PECO does not allow any trees to grow under the “wire zone” directly beneath electric transmission lines and only low-growing shrubbery or grasses in the areas bordering the utility wire zone. These standards were adopted following the Northeast blackout in August 2003 that was caused part by trees growing into high-voltage transmission lines, which triggered a cascading electric system failure across the northeastern region of the U.S. and parts of Ontario.
Based in Philadelphia, PECO is an electric and natural gas utility subsidiary of Exelon Corporation (NYSE:EXC). PECO serves 1.6 million electric and 480,000 natural gas customers in southeastern Pennsylvania and employs about 2,500 people in the region. PECO delivered 78.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 39.9 billion kilowatt-hours-hours of electricity in 2007. Founded in 1881, PECO is one of the Greater Philadelphia Region’s most active corporate citizens, providing leadership, volunteer and financial support to numerous arts and culture, education, environmental, economic development and community programs and organizations.