October 5, 2022
Flipping a switch to turn on a light may seem like a simple step but ensuring the light comes on every time requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work and planning—two reasons Starkville Utilities’ reliability is among the best in the business.
“Everyday commitment is the key to our reliability performance,” said Edward Kemp, general manager of Starkville Utilities. “We’re vigilant about keeping the electrical system in top condition, and we’re always looking for ways to improve reliability for customers.”
Electric utilities use a variety of indicators to measure reliability, such as outage frequency and duration. In 2021, Starkville Utilities customers averaged 40 minutes of outage time for the entire year. In the industry, under 100 minutes is considered excellent.
“We’ve upheld that performance level for more than 10 years,” Kemp said. “And when there are outages in our service area, our crews work hard to return service as safely and quickly as possible.”
Starkville Utilities’ reliability performance is the result of continuous planning that includes routine tree trimming, equipment and technology upgrades, and a long-range investment plan to ensure that the system is prepared to meet future growth needs.
Most outages are caused when branches and trees contact power lines. That’s why Starkville Utilities performs right-of-way tree trimming on the entire electrical system every four years. Crews work year-round to ensure all circuits are trimmed according to the schedule while also responding to areas where emergent problems have been reported.
Trimming trees also keeps birds, squirrels, rodents and other animals from contacting energized equipment—another common cause of outages. Additional strategies to minimize wildlife damage include installing coated and insulated conductors and lines, fiberglass crossarms and switch brackets, and other protective materials and devices.
Lightning mitigation is another strategy to prevent outages and is provided by insulated poles, lightning arrestors, and fuses designed to protect equipment and keep power flowing, if safe to do so.
Last year, reliability got a major boost when Starkville Utilities’ new southwest substation went into operation. The upgrade project included the construction of a second transmission line from Tennessee Valley Authority that provides a back-up source of power for Starkville Utilities customers if primary power is lost.
More improvements are on the way. In the coming year, Starkville Utilities will install fiber-optic lines to interconnect substations and eventually create a fiber loop around the electrical system. The technology will provide real-time system monitoring and status updates for operators.
Starkville Utilities’ capital improvement plan also includes funding for a new outage management system that will tie into the customer information system. Once the systems are connected, Starkville Utilities will be able to communicate directly with customers about outages and restoration updates for streets and neighborhoods.
“These future improvements will make our service even more reliable,” Kemp said, “and customers can count on us to continue our pursuit of excellence going forward.”
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.