What do birds, squirrels, and power outages have in common? Animals trigger 11 percent of power outages across the nation.
“Our members sometimes shake their heads in disbelief when I blame a squirrel for an outage,” shares Don Roach, Director of Operations at Access Energy Cooperative. “Last year, outages caused by animals was second only to the number of outages caused by trees in the lines. We experienced 162 outages in 2013 due to animals getting in our lines.”
To ensure safe, reliable power delivery (and healthy wildlife), coops go to great lengths to keep animals away from electricity.
Electricity seeks the fastest route to the ground. Utility pole insulators keep power flowing safely in your neighborhood, but unwitting squirrels offer high-voltage electricity a way around insulators. If an animal doesn’t jump far enough, a powerful electric current—up to 12,500 volts—makes the squirrel a conduit to the ground. The animal does not survive.
If an animal’s body falls to the ground, the power blinks but stays on. If it falls into equipment, like a transformer, safety measures shut off power. The coop sends a lineworker to remove the animal and restore power.
Squirrels are the main culprit, but they’re not alone. A racoon, opossum fox, snake, bird, and other animals can trigger outages, too.
No one wants wildlife hurt. Most power companies install animal guards to protect equipment and wayward animals. Animal guards are not foolproof, but the measures help drive down the number of outages caused by animals, as well as the number of animals that venture into harm’s way.
Sources: Megan McKoy-Noe; NRECA, Tyco Electronics, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wood Quality Control