Planting the Right Trees in the Right Place Helps Prevent Power Outages

In this part of Tennessee we are blessed with an abundance and variety of trees that many climates can only dream about. It is just one of the many things that make this a wonderful place to live. But it can also be quite a challenge for Volunteer Energy Cooperative in meeting our responsibility to deliver a reliable flow of power to 114,500 customers in all or part of 17 counties.

As the February 2015 ice storms demonstrated, trees can be a power company’s worst enemy. Strong winds, saturated ground, and heavy icing can topple trees or break branches that pull down power lines and cause power outages. Sometimes even heavily damaged power lines can remain energized and can potentially cause a serious safety risk.

Arcing and flashovers between power lines and nearby branches – branches that may not even be coming into contact with power lines – can cause serious safety risks as well. For those reasons VEC has undertaken an aggressive right-of-way clearing program to reduce power outages and to minimize safety risks.

To prevent having a tree trimmed extensively or removed, the best solution is to plant the right tree in the right place. The University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension office prepared the following guidelines for power line-friendly tree planting:

■ Small trees – 30 feet or less in height – should be planted at least 10 feet from buildings and 20 to 25 feet away from power lines.

■ Medium trees – 30 to 70 feet in height – should be planted at least 15 feet from buildings and 30 to 35 feet from power lines.

■ Large trees – those reaching 70 feet or more in height – should be planted at least 25 feet from buildings and 40 to 45 feet from power lines.

■ No tree trunk, no matter how small the tree, should be within 10 feet of a utility pole.