PUD getting electrical grid ready for winter

A tree trimmer with Trees, Inc. trims limbs away from power lines. The Northern Wasco County PUD contracts with Trees, Inc. for trimming services, and the company has worked extensively to clear limbs that could pose a hazard to power lines.

The Northern Wasco County PUD has been spending the summer —and then some — getting ready for the winter.

It is an ongoing effort that ranges from tree trimming to vehicle preparation.

Line trucks and big equipment are four-wheel drive, since a lot of transmission and distribution line is in areas that are hard to get to, said PUD General Manager Roger Kline.

“We also added an all-terrain vehicle to our vehicle fleet,” he said. The vehicle can carry three linemen and equipment. It has snow tracks for winter and lighting, GPS tracking and other safety devices and communication equipment.

Trees weighted by snow and ice or buffeted by high winds can break and fall on power lines, so tree trimming is a significant aspect of preparing for winter.

Last year, for example, 623 tree trimming service orders were completed. The PUD contracts for tree trimming, and has also verified with that company that “their rigs and tools and climbing gear and saws and equipment are ready for winter too,” Kline said.

The bulk of the tree trimming was done in Cherry Heights, Mill Creek, Rowena and the Threemile area, he said. “That equates to over 50 miles of critical feeder line to make sure that they’re ready.”

“Not to say that we got them all, but we got a bunch, including some real hard to reach ones. And that’s good stuff,” Kline said.

This summer, the PUD replaced a large majority of the insulators that have had a history of failing in wet weather. Insulators are the components that sit on top of the power pole that stay between the electrical conductor and the other component pieces.

The PUD crew plus an outside contractor worked on that project “to be a little more preventative this coming winter,” Kline said.

The insulators can fail when the dirt and dust that collects in the dry season becomes wet in the rainy season, and electricity moves through the wet and dirty substance, which is very conductive, causing arcing, which typically is what causes them to fail.

“We were able to get almost 1,800 of our utility poles tested and treated and inspected this year also, with only about a 2 percent failure rate or reject rate,” he said.

When poles failed inspection, “We had to go out and replace the pole because it was either rotten or rotting enough and damaged enough that it didn’t pass inspection, so 27 poles in total so far,” he said.

The PUD has reliability indices that track how many outages there are and how long they last. It’s still early in the season to see any shift in those indices from the winter preparations, he said.

The PUD has also reached out to other area PUDs to formalize a mutual aid agreement to allow them to help each other out in times of outage.

“It’s just good to have that stuff done when it’s not an emergency situation, so you can be ready,” he said.

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