In North Texas, tree limbs are a common cause of power outages. During storms, swaying or broken tree limbs can rub against and possibly sever power lines, causing service fluctuations, widespread outages, and fires. In addition, when upper branches contact power lines, the entire tree can become energized - potentially carrying thousands of volts to the ground. Not only do such shorts cause power outages, but they endanger the public.
Most importantly, trees growing too close to power lines endanger the lives of utility workers and the public—especially children. Both state and federal laws require electric utilities to prune tree limbs away from power lines and electrical equipment. Some states are beginning to impose significant fines to utilities when trees are allowed to grow too close to overhead line.
In 2009, CoServ hired a full- time Professional Forester who has developed a comprehensive, reliability-centered management plan that enhances safety, reduces costs and improves the reliability of your electric service. This plan involves:
• pruning large trees every 3 to 5 years to keep them clear of the power lines.
• removing hazardous trees from the right of way.
• select use of low volume herbicides to target small trees before they interfere with service.
• education and direction in species selection during construction of new developments to ensure long-term compatibility with the landscape and our infrastructure.
One challenge of tree line safety is balancing property owners’ desires with the need to maintain safe, reliable electric service. We typically require about 10 feet of single-phase clearance from our high voltage conductors. If we’re pruning near a 3-phase line, that means a 28-foot zone that is free from vegetation. A large tree crown can spread 50-60 feet, so if it is growing directly under the line, there is going to be a significant aesthetic impact to the appearance of that tree. That is why it is so important that people not plant large trees near electric lines, as they will never be allowed to reach their full potential. In fact, most cities have ordinances which prevent the planting of large trees near power lines or in the right-of-way easement.
For more information about vegetation management, read over a Customer Fact Sheet from the Public Utility Commission. To review a list of trees that are suited for our area, take a look at CoServ’s tree selection resource below to determine which trees are most compatible with each area of your property.