A major cause of power outages during hurricanes and tropical storms is trees coming into contact with overhead lines, either directly or as windborne debris.
While 100 per cent of Bermuda Electric Light Company Ltd’s (BELCO’s) transmission system that carries power from the central plant to its 34 substations is underground, approximately 45 per cent of the distribution system is overhead.
Bermuda has lush vegetation and BELCO addresses it year-round in two ways: By asking customers to trim trees on their own property; and by managing vegetation along overhead mainline and branch circuits island-wide.
In 2009, BELCO introduced a pilot programme, which was formalized in 2011. It hired a specialist horticultural and arboricultural firm, Brown and Company Ltd, to keep vegetation 10 feet away from overhead lines, as required.
The company prunes trees according to growth rate and the habit of individual species, to ensure that the required clearance is maintained for three years.
Special attention is given to minimizing the impact on Bermuda’s endemic plant species, such as the Bermuda Cedar, as well as removing invasive species, such as Mexican Pepper and Chinese Fan Palm.
BELCO’s primary objectives in hiring a specialist horticultural firm to do this work are to maximise the availability of the overhead distribution system and to reduce tree-related power interruptions, while also minimizing the environmental impact of cutting trees and creating a sustainable procedure with long-term benefits.
To manage the programme, Brown and Company has added three new staff members — a qualified tree surgeon from overseas and two Bermudian groundspersons, who are also training to become certified tree surgeons.
The company uses the safest and most up-to-date practices and techniques.
BELCO’s vegetation management programme started in the west end and has been working towards the east end, focusing first on mainline overhead circuits and then on branch lines.
BELCO also encourages customers to manage trees on their own property — keeping them 10 feet away from overhead lines.
Before trimming tree limbs that are dangerously close to power lines, property owners must contact BELCO to arrange for the power to be interrupted while landscapers work.
Please contact BELCO three weeks in advance of the work, at 296-3408 or e-mail email@example.com.
Advance notice is required so that BELCO can schedule the service interruption and notify any other customers that may be affected by it.
While vegetation management does not guarantee uninterrupted power supply during a storm, it does reduce the risk of outages and improves the rate at which BELCO can restore power, because crews don’t have to spend time removing the
For more information and tips from BELCO, go to www.belco.bm