FAIRMONT, W.Va. — First Energy companies Mon Power and Potomac Edison will wrap-up five years of “ground to sky” vegetation clearing later this year with another multi-million dollar effort, company officials announced.
Electric utilities doing business in West Virginia were ordered by the state Public Service Commission in the months following the 2012 Derecho, which caused power outages that took weeks to restore, to do a better job keeping their distribution lines clear of trees and other vegetation. First Energy companies began a five-year process in late 2014 that will come to a close later this year, company spokesman Todd Meyers said.
“By the end of this year, we will have done every power line in West Virginia, that’s Mon Power and Potomac Edison will be trimmed to that spec, and then we’re going to go back every four years,” Meyers said. “Every line will be trimmed every four years.”
Mon Power will trim 4,500 miles this year at a cost of $71 million. First Energy has approximately 30,000 miles of power lines in West Virginia.
Ground to sky clearing gets rid of everything above the power line, which is different than the pre-derecho requirement, Meyers said.
“(In ground to sky) You wouldn’t see any interlocking branches overhead and you’d have a clean right of way from the floor. That’s the biggest difference. It’s almost straight up and down. It looks like a slot,” Meyers said.
Most of the clearing has been done from bucket trucks but in less populated areas aerial saws are used.
The previous four years of clearing has already started to pay off, Meyers said.
“If we take a power line and we trim it to the new spec, that first year after the line has been trimmed to the new spec, the customers along that line have almost 35 percent fewer outage minutes that are due to trees,” he said.
The PSC allows the utilities to recover the cost of the removal program. It’s figured into the monthly cost of service. Mon Power did give back approximately $1.50 on the average customer’s bill a few months ago because of the progress it’s made.
First Energy contractors have trimmed more than 2-million trees since 2014 and removed another 1-million dead or dying trees.
Counting what it plans to spend this year, Mon Power will have spent $348 million, just shy of $70 million a year, on tree trimming and removal since the new requirements went into place. The company spent about $34 million in 2013 prior to the implementation of the PSC-approved enhanced program.
Mon Power will conduct tree trimming in or near the following counties and
communities before the end of the year:
• Braxton – Chapel, Gassaway, Sutton
• Brooke – Beech Bottom, Colliers, Follansbee, McKinleyville, Weirton
• Clay – Widen
• Greenbrier – Lewisburg, Ronceverte
• Hancock – Chester, Newell, New Cumberland, Weirton
• Harrison – Lost Creek, Lumberport
• Lewis – Jackson’s Mill
• Marion – Barrackville, Boothsville, Carolina, Farmington, Idamay,
• Monongalia – Brookhaven, Cheat Lake, Dellslow, Star City, Westover
• Nicholas – Birch River, Craigsville, Fenwick, Leivasy, Muddlety, Nettie
• Pendleton – Franklin, Sugar Grove, Upper Tract
• Pleasants – St. Marys
• Preston – Albright, Bruceton Mills
• Randolph – Elkins, Huttonsville, Kerns, Montrose
• Ritchie – Smithville
• Roane – Peniel, Spencer
• Summers – Hinton
• Taylor – Grafton, Thornton
• Tucker – Canaan Valley, Hendricks, Parsons, Porterwood, Saint George
• Wirt – Elizabeth
• Wood – Cedar Grove, Davisville, Kanawha, Larkmead, Lubeck, Nicolette,
Parkersburg, Waverly, Williamstown
During the upcoming months, Potomac Edison will be conducting tree trimming work in the following counties and communities:
• Berkeley (WV) – Bunker Hill, Falling Waters, Glengary, Hedgesville, Inwood, Martinsburg
• Grant (WV)– Maysville
• Hampshire (WV) – Capon Bridge, Sunrise Summit, Vanderlip
• Hardy (WV) – Perry, Yellow Springs
• Jefferson (WV) – Harpers Ferry
• Mineral (WV) – Bloomington, Keyser, New Creek, Piedmont, Short Gap
• Morgan (WV) – Berkeley Springs, Hedgesville