When a power outage happens, it can feel like you’re quite literally in the dark. So we spoke with Camryn Batchelor, System Engineer at Piedmont Electric, to learn more about why power outages happen.
What causes power outages?
Severe weather conditions, such as lightning, wind, ice, or even extreme cold, are the most common reasons for power outages. Lightning can damage our electrical equipment and the wind and ice knock trees and branches onto the lines and equipment. Also, extremely cold temperatures increase the load on our electric system due to more energy being used to heat all our members’ homes.
Animals and vehicle accidents are other frequent causes for outages. Squirrels, birds and snakes are the usual culprits that chew on the power lines or crawl into substation equipment. Vehicles and tractors occasionally hit poles or pull down overhead power lines. These are causes of outages and are also incredibly dangerous. If a downed power line comes in contact with your vehicle, remain in your vehicle and call 911 as the ground around your vehicle may be energized.
Why does the co-op plan outages?
We plan outages to keep other unplanned outages from happening. During planned outages, we are either reworking the system, balancing the load on the lines or carrying out repairs.
By conducting regular inspections along our lines and at our substations, we can catch and fix small issues before they grow. We test equipment, inspect poles, monitor fluid levels and search for excess heat (which indicates a potential issue). While these inspections can lead to a short, planned outage, they help prevent longer outages and keep our system working efficiently.
How can the power go out on underground lines?
All underground lines are fed from overhead lines that are connected to our substations. This means that if your lines are underground and you’re experiencing an outage, the outage source might stem from an overhead line that is connected to your underground line.
Aging cables and construction work are also sources of underground line outages. It is important to always call 811 before you dig to make sure all construction avoids underground power lines. Underground power line outages often take longer to restore because they require our crews to dig up the cable to locate and fix the issue.
Why does my power blink?
If you notice your lights blinking, it means that your power was close to going out but our protective equipment detected the issue and avoided an outage. If you often notice your lights blinking, call us at 800.222.3107 so we can perform an inspection on the lines in your area.
What does Piedmont Electric do to keep power from going out?
Regular right-of-way maintenance is vital to keeping the power on. We trim trees and maintain a clear right-of-way around all 3,548 miles of our lines every three years to help keep tree branches from falling on the lines. Our crews also conduct regular inspections of all our equipment, poles, lines and substations and continually upgrade aging equipment to ensure an efficient and reliable electric grid.