Manager Connection – Reliable Energy Created in Tree Trimming & Planned Outages

By Syd Briggs,
General Manager

Providing safe, reliable power to you is and will always be a top priority for Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric. These days, power reliability seems to be making news now more than ever.

As the energy industry continues to transition and more segments of the economy are becoming electrified, such as vehicles, machinery, and even lawn equipment, additional pressures are being placed on our nation’s electric grid.

As we’re about halfway through the summer storm season (and noticing the days are getting shorter), I thought it would be a good reminder of the measures taken to ensure you continue receiving the reliable power you depend on and deserve.

While we may agree trees add charm to our communities with their shade and beauty, you may be surprised to learn overgrown vegetation accounts for about 25% of all power outages at Steele-Waseca.

That’s why we strive to keep the co-op’s power lines clear in right-of-way (ROW) areas. A ROW area is the land a co-op uses to construct, maintain, replace or repair underground and overhead power lines.

This ROW enables Steele-Waseca to provide clearance from trees and other obstructions that could hinder distribution power lines. The overall goal of our vegetation management strategy is to provide reliable power to our members while maintaining the beauty of our area.

Generally speaking, healthy trees don’t fall on power lines, and clear lines don’t cause problems. Proactive trimming and pruning keep lines clear to improve power reliability.

However, traditional vegetation management is costly and time consuming. It entails on-the-ground, labor-intensive efforts involving workers assessing vegetation and overseeing the quality and completion of contractor work. Advances and improvements in technology, like drones, are allowing the opportunity to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Planned outages improve reliability

Although it may seem counterintuitive, Steele-Waseca also maintains power reliability through planned, controlled outages. By carefully cutting power to one part of our local area for a few hours, Steele-Waseca can perform system repairs and upgrades, which ultimately improve electric service. Rest assured, we will always notify you in advance of a planned outage, but you need to make sure we have your correct contact information on file.

Vegetation management is an essential tool in ensuring power reliability and minimizing the risk of outages. As advancements become more accessible and costs drop, we anticipate using additional technologies to ensure a consistent energy supply while managing the environment.