Archive for Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tree-trimming crews a familiar sight along area roads

Westar’s goal is to prevent electrical power outages from occurring during windy weather, ice storms

June 28, 2006

For employees of Wright Tree Service, the buzz of chainsaws is nothing new.

But it may be new to Tonganoxie area residents whose trees are being trimmed -- or removed -- in Westar's ongoing effort to prevent tree limbs from falling on power lines.

Westar spokesperson Karla Olsen termed the process as "line clearance."

"We started in the Tonganoxie area in mid-December," Olsen said. "It is a 46-mile circuit that is basically on the southeast side of town and into the rural area southeast of town."

Westar contracts with Wright's to do the work.

"We've had four crews working," Olsen said. "They are more than halfway finished and should be finished by late summer."

The purpose of the trimming is to keep trees and limbs from falling onto power lines, knocking out electrical power.

"Those storms come through, a tree hits the line causing a power outage," Olsen said. "That was one of the circuits that we had identified as needing line clearing, therefore it will improve reliability."

Olsen said before a homeowner's trees are trimmed, informational packets are left at the homes.

Trees that will need to be removed or trimmed are identified ahead of time, and the owners are told in advance.

"We try not to remove a tree, of course. If it's going to continually interfere with our ability to serve our customers, a tree might have to come down," Olsen said.

In some locations, underground buried lines may be an attractive alternative to overhead lines, which could fall victim to windblown trees and limbs.

And, while developers may opt for underground power lines, rather than overhead lines, that's not always the best choice, Olsen said.

The underground lines cost more to install. And, she said, higher voltage lines can't be buried.

"It's just not safe to bury them," Olsen said. "There will always be some overhead lines."

Though roadside tree crews may not be a common sight in the Tonganoxie area, Olsen said it's an everyday practice for Westar, which covers much of the eastern half of Kansas.

"Our annual budget for doing all this is somewhere around $20 million," Olsen said.

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