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How technology, planned outages and tree trimming helps CoServ's reliability

By NICHOLAS SAKELARIS | CoServ

High above Lake Lewisville, a power line was about to split in two.  

Left unattended, the line could snap, leaving thousands of Members in the dark for several hours. In a worst-case scenario, CoServ also might have to scramble to rent a lift that could reach 100 feet in the air to repair the lines that cross the lake – our fleet of bucket trucks can’t reach that high.

Fortunately, none of this occurred because the problem was discovered during a routine flyover by a CoServ drone.

Finding this problem before it caused an outage allowed CoServ to schedule the repair rather than having to respond to an emergency in less than ideal conditions.

While CoServ crews repaired the line, dispatchers were able to reroute electricity to make sure nobody lost power, a process called backfeeding. Click here for more on how backfeeding works and how it keeps your power on during maintenance events.  

Inspections and preventive maintenance play a key role in creating one of the most reliable electric systems in the state, and CoServ constantly evaluates ways to leverage technology to serve our Members and help our Employees do their jobs safely and efficiently.

“We’re seeing some equipment that’s broken and seeing other stuff that could be broken,” said Geoff Tarwater, CoServ’s Power Quality Technician. “It makes us more proactive instead of reactive. We’re trying to find problems before they become outages.”

In 2021, CoServ also plans to expand its drone fleet with a bigger infrared drone that, in addition to conducting visual inspections, can detect heat signatures on power lines and substation equipment. Heat signatures can indicate a problem that, left unattended, could cause a power outage.

Why planned outages improve CoServ's reliability 

CoServ prides itself on having a reliable electric system that our Members rarely ever think twice about.

Inspecting our infrastructure is a huge part of that – we inspect about 10 percent of our system each year, including the wires, transformers and other equipment in your neighborhood.

Sometimes, these inspections find a mechanical problem before it causes a power outage. In those cases, our crews schedule a time to fix or replace the equipment. This is what’s referred to as a “planned outage.”

In these situations, Members are notified that their power will be out for a designated amount of a time on a certain date.

It’s just another example of CoServ going above and beyond to serve our Members.

“We try to catch these problems during inspections,” said Shea Hassell, CoServ’s Director of Operations.

“If we know about it and can get to it before it’s an outage, it’s much easier to deal with. If you wait until equipment goes out and causes an outage, it affects more Members than the planned outage would.”

Keeping tree branches away from power lines 

Ice storms and strong winds can wreak havoc on trees and cause service interruptions when those trees fall on electric power lines.

While we can’t stop Mother Nature, we can take steps to lessen its effects by trimming tree branches near our overhead lines. CoServ has an extensive vegetation management plan that prunes trees along our entire system, an often-overlooked factor that contributes to our stellar reliability.

CoServ contracts with two companies that work year-round to keep tree limbs away from our lines. During peak times in the spring, there can be as many as 14 crews working on CoServ lines. The crews maintain about 25 percent of our system every year, and they are always busy – especially in years of rapid vegetation growth because of increased rainfall.

Morgan Herd, CoServ’s Vegetation Management Coordinator, said CoServ and its contractors respect the rights of property owners and are sensitive to their concerns. 

“We always want to work with our Members,” he said. “But if a tree branch on their property could disrupt electric service for them and several hundred neighbors, we have to take care of it.

“At the end of the day, reliability is our number one goal.”

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