July 31, 2023
As powerful storms traverse through our community, utilities must remain proactive in keeping power lines free and clear of vegetation that can cause outages. To that end, Starkville Utilities makes routine tree trimming an operational priority thereby minimizing interruptions to its customers and maintaining its high-ranking reliability performance.
“We know weather can be unpredictable and that every storm is different,” said John Scott, assistant general manager of Starkville Utilities. “But we’re committed to this community and take pride in delivering reliable, safe and affordable service to all of our customers.
“By investing in system maintenance and removing or trimming trees that can fall on our equipment,” he added, “we not only save the company time and money, but help customers avoid the costs and inconvenience outages can cause.”
Electric utilities track several indicators to measure reliability, including the average duration of service interruptions per year. Based on the latest statistics through 2022, Starkville Utilities’ customer minutes of interruption is performing in the top quartile of utilities statewide.
And according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Starkville Utilities’ average outage time has been less than an hour for 8 of the last 10 years. This is outstanding by industry standards and is bolstered by keeping the utility rights-of-way clear.
“We use skilled contract crews to clear vegetation from distribution and transmission lines on a four-year targeted trim cycle,” said Jason Horner, electric system engineer at Starkville Utilities. “We also work with customers to preserve trees that are of significance and provide advice on new tree placement, which goes a long way in avoiding future overgrowth.”
Crews follow guidelines set by the American National Standards Institute to enhance tree health, and having well-established ROW limits means that most of their efforts are focused on controlling regrowth. If growth gets out of hand, it’s harder to conform to ANSI standards, Horner noted.
Over the last decade, Starkville Utilities has invested in insulated covers on equipment bushings and coated wires to mitigate wildlife damage and prevent faults that can lead to outages. And to help better plan and gain efficiencies in vegetation management, the company is now capturing tree trimming work into its ArcGIS system to track trimming cycles going forward.
In addition, property owners are advised not to plant trees that could grow within 25 feet of a power line. A mature height of less than 15 feet is recommended for trees planted near power lines.
“Maintaining top reliability performance is part of our Future FOCUS initiative to improve service and keep the power flowing to customers,” said Scott. “We’re dedicated to helping Starkville weather the storms and serve as a catalyst for growth and development now and in the future.”
Starkville Utilities is a municipally owned and operated electric and water utility, serving more than 14,000 residences, businesses and industries in Starkville as well as the state’s largest institution of higher learning, Mississippi State University.