Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Squirrels: wildlife creature most likely to cause a power outage

It’s a squirrelly situation, but it’s something we deal with all the time.

Wildlife was to blame for 10 percent of power outages for our customers in 2015, and of those, 60 percent were caused by squirrels.

Wildlife protection has been installed to prevent squirrels from climbing on poles or gnawing on our wires. That protection can include a special coating that makes it hard for the squirrels to climb up our equipment as well as bushing covers on our transformers to prevent electrocution.

“Our power lines are the great urban highway for squirrels. As we find problem areas, we try to add protection,” says Mike Miller, a supervising engineer in electrical operations.

Substations are another target of the mischievous squirrel. They find it’s a nice place to build a nest or hide their nuts. We’ve added extra insulation to prevent animals from entering and causing a power outage.

Although squirrels are the most common wildlife pest, they are not alone. Birds, raccoons, snakes and other rodents all have been known to cause power interruptions.

Birds such as ospreys, build nests on top of our power poles. We’ve built several osprey nesting platforms in Wisconsin near power poles to give them a safer alternative.

Strangely enough, bird excrement also causes power outages. Large birds like to roost in the same spot, sometimes on our equipment. When they propel off, they “let go.” That excrement can build up on insulators and cause outages.

About 36,000 of our customers were affected by wildlife outages in 2015.

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