One of the factors we all enjoy most about the Eastern Upper Peninsula (EUP) is the natural scenery that surrounds us. We are fortunate to have so many trees that offer beauty, shade and a habitat for birds and wildlife. We know our members appreciate our EUP community for many of the same reasons. At Cloverland Electric, we strive to balance maintaining beautiful surroundings and ensuring a reliable power supply by keeping power lines clear in rights of way (ROW).
While we recognize and appreciate the beauty of trees, there are three main benefits to tree trimming in ROW areas: safety, reliability and affordability. However, before detailing these reasons, let me explain how a “right of way” may impact you. A right of way is the land we use to construct, maintain, replace or repair underground and overhead power lines. Rights of way enable the co-op to provide clearance from trees and other obstructions that could hinder the power line installation, maintenance or operation. ROW areas are typically on public lands or located near a business or home. Regardless, Cloverland must be able to maintain the power lines above and below the ROW. The overall goal of our vegetation management program is to provide reliable power to our members while maintaining the beauty of our community. Proactive vegetation management benefits coop members in three tangible ways.
First and foremost, we care about our members and put their safety and that of our lineworkers above all else. Overgrown vegetation and trees pose a risk to power lines. For example, if trees are touching power lines in our members’ yards, they can pose grave danger to families. If children can access those trees, they can potentially climb into a danger zone. Electricity can arc, or jump, from a power line to a nearby conductor like a tree. A proactive approach also diminishes the chances of fallen branches or trees during severe weather events that make it more complicated and dangerous for lineworkers to restore power.
One of the greatest benefits of a smart vegetation management program is reliability. Strategic tree trimming reduces the frequency of downed trees on lines causing power outages. Generally speaking, healthy trees don’t fall on power lines, and clear lines don’t cause problems. Proactive trimming and pruning keep lines clear to promote reliability.
Last fall, we commissioned a study to evaluate our vegetation management program which includes 3,000 miles of primary overhead ROW and 1002 circuits across our five-county service territory that has been traditionally maintained on a seven-year cycle. The study determined our system would benefit from a fiveyear cycle. As a result, we increased our tree trimming from an average of 250-275 miles annually to 415 miles of ROW starting this year.
As you know, Cloverland is a not-for-profit cooperative, which means we strive to keep our costs in check to keep our rates affordable. This factor extends to our approach to vegetation management. If trees grow too close to power lines, the potential for costly repairs also increases. Effective tree trimming and other vegetation management efforts keep costs down for everyone. Our E.U.P. community is a special place. We appreciate the beauty trees afford, yet we also know our community depends on us to provide reliable energy. Through vegetation management, we are better able to keep power lines clear, prepare for future weather events and secure the reliability of our grid.