April 20, 2020
STARKVILLE - Falling trees and branches are a leading cause of power outages — but that doesn’t mean trees and lines can’t safely co-exist. In recognition of Earth Day on April 22, Starkville Utilities is highlighting the role of proper tree-trimming practices in enhancing reliability and protecting one of the community’s most vital natural resources.
For the last five years, Starkville Utilities’ annual reliability performance has topped 99 percent, thanks in large part to a $3330,000 annual investment in daily tree-trimming operations that keep electricity flowing to customers’ homes and businesses.
“It’s extremely important for our customers to have great service that they can depend on,” said Jacob Forrester, assistant general manager, Starkville Utilities. “We also recognize that trees are essential for the environment and contribute to our city’s character and natural beauty. When done responsibly, routine tree trimming plays a major role in preventing outages and has proven to be a cost-effective investment to improve reliability.”
Tree trimming also helps discourage squirrels and other animals from accessing lines and electrical equipment — another common cause of outages.
Starkville Utilities maintains approximately 190 miles of distribution lines to serve customers. Contractor crews trim around 2,000 feet of vegetation each week and cover the entire distribution system every three to four years. Their work is done in accordance with guidelines developed by the American National Standards Institute for trimming trees around lines and utility rights of way to ensure safe, reliable utility services.
“We are focused on taking care of our lines and equipment, but it is just as important to follow proper guidelines to protect tree health,” Forrester said. “That’s why we use certified arborists who provide guidance on our tree-trimming practices and make sure we are being responsible stewards of trees that are in our rights of way.”
Falling trees and branches are especially problematic during storms. In addition to causing outages, they can create electrical hazards if they knock poles and lines to the ground. By routinely clearing vegetation away from power lines, Starkville Utilities has been able to reduce storm-related outages and service interruptions while minimizing hazardous conditions.
Tree trimming is part of a larger, year-round strategy to enhance reliability. Starkville Utilities follows a proactive preventative maintenance program that helps identify equipment issues before they cause problems. Devices such as fault circuit indicators and lightning arrestors also play key roles in reducing outages and improving power quality.
“Even a very brief service interruption can shut down a manufacturing process or an assembly line,” Forrester said. “Our industrial customers depend on high levels of power quality, and tree trimming helps ensure that we deliver a steady, reliable source of electricity to support their needs.”
Forrester noted that Starkville Utilities does not cut or trim trees on private property. If a homeowner wants to cut down a tree in the path of a service wire, linemen will disconnect the wire so cutting can proceed safely and reconnect the wire once the job is completed.
“Every day we’re working to keep Starkville’s electrical system in top condition, and responsible tree trimming plays an important part in our efforts,” Forrester said. “It also must be done safely. We remind customers to hire a professional tree service when cutting or removing trees on their property, and always stay away from downed power lines and report them to Starkville Utilities.”
Starkville Utilities is a public utility serving 14,000 residences, businesses and industries in Starkville, Mississippi as well as Mississippi State University. Its mission is to supply safe, reliable, and cost-effective electric and water service of superior quality and value that improves the lives of its customers.