We know that power outages often occur during a storm, where high winds or even heavy ice can cause trees to fall into electric equipment. But sometimes the power goes out on a mild, sunny day, and you might wonder why. One common explanation can be our furry, flying, or even slithering friends.
At PEC, about 5% of all outages are caused by animal interference. And, if you were to look at outages only on nice days, the percentage would be much higher. Other causes of outages on sunny days include fallen trees, automobile accidents, construction and landscaping incidents, and problems with the lines connecting our system to your home.
Have you ever wondered how a bird can safely perch on a live wire without getting a shock? Electricity is always looking for a path to the ground, so an animal is only in danger if they touch the line and another piece of equipment that is grounded, creating a fault that could kill the animal and temporarily knock out electricity. We often see outages caused by birds, squirrels, and snakes because they unwittingly make themselves part of the circuit this way.
With an 8,100-square-mile service territory, a lot can interfere with a line, which is why our protective devices are armed with reclose capacity. This means after a breaker is tripped open, it will automatically try to close again after two seconds. If the problem on the line, like animal interference or a lightning strike, has been cleared and the amperage and voltage on the line have returned to normal levels, the breaker will remain closed, and your power will remain on with only a flicker or a blink.
PEC places bird guards and other deterrents on our equipment, but unfortunately, very determined birds sometimes try to build nests in them! The deterrents also don’t protect against snakes climbing the poles, birds of prey dropping kills such as rabbits or fish on energized equipment, or squirrels chewing on exposed wires. PEC does everything we can to protect wildlife and your electricity, but unfortunately there’s no way for us or any other utility to prevent these incidents entirely.