Landscape Design and High-Voltage Power Lines
Designers can avert conflict between trees and power lines.
By Chuck Zinky and Bob Bell
Utility wires. Arboriculture. If you think these terms donít
go together, think again. Utility arboriculture is a branch of urban forestry
dedicated to managing vegetation in and around utility corridors: utility
vegetation management (UVM). This covers everything from the old oak tree
growing in a backyard to a tree-lined streetscape to the golf course pines
adjacent to a 500,000-volt grid-critical transmission line.
In any given community two things are likely to be true: The
local utility company spends more on tree care than anyone else in town, and
trees contacting power lines is one of the top three causes of power
interruptions. The Great American Blackout of 2003, which affected 50 million
customers and had an estimated economic impact of $10 to $15 billion, was
precipitated by a tree contacting a transmission line in Ohio. Each year,
utility companies and their contractors prune tens of millions of trees. North
American utilities spend $2 to $3 billion each year pruning and removing
unwanted vegetation from the vicinity of high-voltage lines.
Another unfortunate fact: Significant dollars and good
landscape designs are spent installing doomed or soon to be misshaped trees
beneath high-voltage power lines. How can this be avoided?
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