Avoiding power outages caused by animals

Witch's brew calls for squirrel boil

Utilities rely on their substations to last for decades. Unfortunately, a substation’s reliability can quickly be compromised by changes around a substation’s footprint: plants grow, wildlife populations change, and the topography surrounding a site can erode.

These completely natural changes can lead to a greater chance of animal incursions – incursions that can cause power outages, equipment failures, expensive repairs and major headaches for customers.

With the growing season just past and fall foraging season for animals just ahead, now is the ideal time for substation operators to survey their substation surroundings. TransGard Systems, which has installed its patented animal-deterrent fencing at more than 2,500 substations, developed this simple site review that enables personnel to protect their facilities from preventable outages:

1. Foliage survey: Check for any overhanging branches or brush growth around the substation that may provide a nimble climbing animal access. If necessary, schedule trimming or removal.

2. Determine possible entry points: Do nearby wooden poles or unprotected overhead lines provide squirrels and raccoons easy entry? Consider adding pole wraps and line guards to prevent animal incursion.

3. Consider nearby animal activity: If your substation is in a wooded area, climbing animals may increase the chances of an outage. Even in suburban substations, squirrels and housecats can easily breach a substation.

4. Review your protective equipment: If you have any animal-deterrent gear — a fence, line spinners, pole guards or other equipment — inspect it to make sure it’s secure and operating properly.

5. System-wide review: Were any substation outages caused by animals in the past year? If so, consider adding field-tested protection to problem substations. It can be cost-effective; for example, preventing just one outage can pay for the cost of a fence.

Every year, animals cause hundreds of outages and millions of dollars equipment repairs, man-hours and lost revenue. With a simple mid-year checkup, you can take steps to prevent an outage at the substations you operate.

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