Eversource Energy is launching a new vegetation management program using historical data to target sections of its power distribution grid in 12 towns that have been susceptible to outages.
Eversource officials have identified 15 segments of the utility’s electric system in Chester, Clinton, Guilford, Mansfield, Middletown, Naugatuck, Newtown, Redding, Sharon, West Hartford, Windham and Woodstock to be part of the new program. The work in these problem areas involves the removal of trees within a targeted “fall zone” on over 700 properties.
The fall zone encompasses a broader area than what Eversource vegetation management crews assess whether to trim tree limbs that encroach upon the company’s distribution network, according to Sean Redding, the company’s manager of vegetation management in Connecticut.
“This is a different way of looking at it, a different approach,” Redding said.
Company officials assessed two different sets of data.
One covered the cause of all types of outages over a five-year period. The second data set reviewed covered instances over a 10-year-period in which power was lost because of weather-related conditions, he said.
Company officials believe this data-based approach will make more than 8,200 Eversource customers in those 13 communities – as well as critical facilities like fire and police stations along with community storm shelters – less likely to lose power.
“We have the data that shows how and where trees are impacting service to our customers and we’re looking to develop new ways to turn the worst performing lines into the most reliable circuits in our state,” Eversource Vice President of Operation Services Steve Driscoll said.
Trees cause 90 percent of power outages during storms and severe weather. Redding said prior to 2011, the storms that hit Connecticut were less frequent and not as severe as those that hit the state in the years after that. But starting with Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, a surprise snowstorm that hit the state two months later and Super Storm Sandy in October 2012, utility officials had benchmarks of more severe weather that would follow at the end of the decade, he said.
“Before that, we hadn’t had major storms like that in 20 years,” he said. “And we live in a state where the legislature and governor that have taken active roles in coming up with solutions.”
And the targeted tree removal that is now getting underway covers just 20 miles along the company’s distribution network. By comparison, Eversource has crews trimming trees along roughly 4,000 miles of its electric system, which encompasses more than 16,000 miles statewide.
Redding said the targeted tree removal should be completed by the end of this year.
Even as the company is undertaking the targeted tree removal, Eversource officials are going before state utility regulators with physical improvements to its electric system they believe will reduce frequent outages along other portions of the distribution network.