When the Wind Blows

by Bill Scott, GLE President/CEO

Trees and power lines—like oil and water—don’t mix. With all the hard work it takes to keep the right of ways cleared, we know trees can still fall on the power lines when strong winds blow, especially during the summer months when storms are known to quickly crop up. 

So far this year, we’ve experienced more small wind events rather than one large storm (knock on wood!). But sometimes a short-lived windstorm can be just as difficult. A key cause of outages is winds that are just strong enough to cause damage for trees and power lines. It keeps our lineworkers and dispatchers very busy. This can create a challenge that is largely out of our control to meet our annual reliability goal of outage minutes.

No one can control the weather, but we can control how quickly and safely we get the power back on. Big investments made in recent years are helping us do that. They include regularly clearing trees away from power lines, rebuilding major power line circuits where outages are more prevalent, taking advantage of new technologies and adding more line protection devices to limit the number of members affected by outages.

Repairing lines as efficiently and safely as possible is important, too. One of the benefits of a large cooperative is we can pull Great Lakes Energy crews from other parts of our 26-county service area to help when a storm’s damage is localized over one area. The strategy is less effective when little pesky storms pop up throughout our service area, but we can count on them when larger storms blow through. 

Members sometimes ask why we don’t put all our lines underground and avoid damage by winds and trees. It’s a good question, but not necessarily a simple solution. The estimated cost to put approximately 11,000 miles of line underground would be roughly $1.299 billion. The impact on your rates would be significant, s we just look at what’s best for each situation when deciding whether to install overhead or underground lines.

You can’t expect to always have good weather but you can expect us to be there for you. When strong winds blow, we’ll be there to get the lights back on. That’s the cooperative difference.