No matter how hard Trinity Valley Electric Cooperative employees work to keep the power flowing and your lights on, some outages are simply unavoidable. Lightning and ice storms that break poles and snap wires are familiar culprits, but animals and car wrecks and even aircraft can knock out the power when the sun is shining.
But your co-op takes many measures to minimize outages. Let me share with you a few of the ways we continually work to keep your lights on.
There are a staggering number of poles on our system. If you look closely at any of the poles, you’ll notice small dated aluminum tags. These tags are installed when a section of line is professionally inspected. Often, two or three tags can be seen on the same pole, one for each inspection. The inspectors are trained experts who use visual, ultrasound and boring tools to find issues that can be fixed before they turn into problems.
Monthly substation inspections are another measure we take to ensure normal operations. Along with visual inspections, readings are recorded to identify abnormalities such as oil leaks, discoloration and even bird nests. Workers check batteries and change filters, and oil samples are taken and analyzed annually in an effort to stay ahead of issues.
Infrared technology is relatively new to the utility industry, but it has become an important tool. Infrared cameras—on the ground and lifted into the air by drones—detect elevated temperatures and can be used to conduct surveys of substations and regulator banks. This enables us to find hot spots and fix or clean them at minimal cost before they can cause an outage.
Right-of-way management is an ongoing battle. Tree branches that have grown—or blown—into a line can cause your lights to dim or blink, so tree trimming is a critical part of our right-of-way management efforts.
Our crews patrol the lines daily, whether on an outage call or on the way to build new lines. If we can find an issue and fix it before it causes an outage, that’s a good day.
All these efforts and more are part of our everyday commitment to provide electricity that you can rely on to keep the lights on.