One of the biggest challenges in the electric industry is dealing with the unpredictability of Mother Nature’s wrath. In Connecticut, the number one cause of power outages is trees that damage electrical equipment, often as a result of strong winds or ice. That’s why Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) has developed a five-year, $300 million infrastructure strengthening plan, designed to improve reliability and reduce the impact of severe weather.
CL&P’s “System Resiliency Plan,” approved today by the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), focuses on three major initiatives – tree trimming, electrical hardening through the use of coated thicker-gauge wire, and structural hardening by strengthening utility poles, cross-arms and related system equipment.
“PURA’s approval is good news for our customers and we look forward to starting these system improvements,” said Bill Quinlan, CL&P’s senior vice president of emergency preparedness. “This investment will benefit our customers by improving the day-to-day reliability of our system and making it less vulnerable to outages caused by extreme weather.”
More than half of the $300 million will go toward tree trimming, as trees cause the vast majority of outages during severe weather. $32 million will be invested this year to expand the company’s tree trimming program, in addition to its normal vegetation management program. Increasing tree trimming and ensuring a clearance around electrical equipment has already proven beneficial in areas such as the Farmington Valley, where trimming was increased and the number of tree-related outages decreased.
Along with the tree trimming, next year the company will install thicker wire that has a protective coating, known as “tree wire,” that can better withstand damage from falling branches or trees. The work will also involve the replacement or refurbishment of utility poles and cross-arms to better tolerate storm damage and reduce power outages.
These improvements will be focused on portions of the electrical system, or circuits, that have historically experienced a number of outages during day-to-day operations or as a result of severe weather. Now that the plan has final approval, the work will begin this spring.