Upper Valley residents who are “on the grid,” are no strangers to power outages. There is often a telltale flickering of the lights, and then often an audible click as everything shuts down. This fall has seen more outages than usual, with the most recent occurring on Sunday and lasting nearly six hours. According to MEA, the last two outages were both caused by trees on the line, with Sunday’s outage caused by an unlikely perpetrator.
“Act of beaver, yes. So far, we’ve had act of beaver, act of raven, and act of high wind.”
That’s Kevin Brown, MEA’s Communications Manager. He says that, mischievous critters aside, the utility has been taking steps to help prevent future outages.
“We’re doing several things to help alleviate the issue. The biggest is that we’ve brought an additional substation online that should help stabilize the system in your area. Of course, after we did that, we promptly had a beaver chew through a tree on the other side of the substation, causing an outage. We do hope that it’ll stabilize things, but then there are those unusual acts of nature that no one expects.”
Brown says that part of the issue in the Talkeetna and Trapper Creek areas comes from the fact that there is a single seventy mile stretch of power line that runs from a substation in Willow to feed the area. If anything happens along that line, the lights go out further north. He says that bringing the new substation online means that the point where Talkeetna draws its power from the larger grid is much closer, so there is less chance of a line issue.
Trees on the line are a tricky issue. Kevin Brown says that it often comes down to a numbers game.
“The problem that we run into in the Talkeetna area is that we have right-of-ways that are fifteen to thirty feet wide, and trees just outside of them that are a hundred feet tall, so its easy for them to fall into the lines even when we keep our right-of-ways cleared.”
Brown says that, before each winter, MEA looks for trees that are likely to fall on the line and clears them as best as possible. However, there is a lot of line to cover, and he says they often rely on information from customers.
“Something that we want to encourage all of your listeners to do is, if they see a tree that looks like it is endangering MEA equipment, call us. We can have it removed. That’s a free service we provide.”
Information on contacting MEA in the event of an outage or reporting a tree that may endanger the line can be found on its website.