The Many Faces of Power Outages
by Bob Hance on Friday, July 6, 2018
On May 2 we experienced the first spring storm of the year, including some fierce winds and lightning. Needless to say, power lines, poles and trees don't typically respond well to those kinds of circumstances and we had some widespread outages across our southwest Michigan service territory. Two short days later, Mother Nature's feisty mood returned, again leaving many of our consumers with power outages for several hours.
No one likes a power outage, but folks tend to be pretty understanding when the disruption is clearly related to a weather event. With these two events, many posted comments on our Facebook updates, thanking our crews for their hard work and encouraging them to stay safe as they worked on restoration efforts in less-than-ideal elements.
When the power goes out on a sunny spring day, people don't tend to be quite as gracious and patient.
Weather and trees wreak havoc on our largely overhead system, and are the most common causes of outages on our distribution system. But there are many other factors that can land you in the dark.
I recently watched a news story about a raccoon knocking out power for 40,000-plus consumers in Knox County, Tenn. The unsuspecting critter found his way onto the main feed in a substation, resulting in a huge flash, a shower of sparks, and total darkness for those customers. The raccoon didn't fare well either.
It's not an unusual scenario in our service territory. Woodland creatures live and roam among the trees that typify our rural space, offering easy access to warm substations and other overhead equipment that deliver power to your home. Squirrels and raccoons are common culprits, but birds, possum, and even snakes can easily come in contact with transformers and fuses.
Public damage is another common cause. I jokingly refer to the “weekend chainsaw warriors” who tackle trees and branches without considering the surrounding overhead power lines. Construction and farming equipment, and the occasional car-pole accident, are other common occurrences that can disrupt your power supply.
And then there's good old equipment failure. Our distribution system is comprised of a lot of highly mechanical equipment. Just like appliances and equipment in your home, sometimes things just fail due to age or wear and tear.
We don't like power outages any more than you do, and have worked hard over the last 15 years to improve our system through aggressive right-of-way clearance and investments in our infrastructure. As we continue those efforts, we're actively deploying smart grid applications that will allow us to improve reliability and safety in new and innovative ways. We will never completely avoid power disruptions, but we're making strategic investments to give you the best service experience possible.
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