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Wildlife constitutes a ‘danger’ to power infrastructure

Road to safe power system and safe wildlife

Severe weather changes, and vegetation, have always been a problem for the power sectors, and many countries have resorted to new ways to make electrical production more efficient. Yet one threat often goes unnoticed: wildlife.


From the tiniest crawlers of the land to the soaring birds of the sky, one thing in common is the problem they can cause to power grids – electrocution, power outages, faults, and even wildfires.

Recently, a squirrel reportedly caused a power outage in Prior Lake, Minnesota. According to The Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative, the squirrel came in contact with substation equipment. The said incident caused a blackout in approximately 4,000 homes on June 5, 2022.[1]



In New Orleans, a bird was at fault for causing damage to an electrical substation, affecting nearly 10,000 utility customers, as reported by Entergy New Orleans. The matter occurred as people were heading to work, only for them to find inoperative traffic signals and darkened offices.[2]

These dilemmas resulted from the interaction between the perpetrators to different electrical equipment. It was noticeable that birds can safely sit on high-voltage lines, this is possible when a bird only sits on a single line. However, spreading its wingspan hitting two lines will definitely create a pathway for electrons and cause a line-to-line fault that could put a city in complete darkness. It is also not safe for birds to settle on top of poles because power poles are directly buried to ground and the moment a bird touches any of those live wires, it will create a pathway causing a line-to-ground fault. Another possible interaction is caused by the curiosity of these little creatures, especially squirrel. These tiny little furry friends are entering substations and run unto different energized equipment, and a single wrong move can cause faults and damages to equipment and system.


As stated by the Global Electronics Services INC., animal-related failures can cause over a thousand outages annually, and squirrels are responsible for 11% of all power disruptions.[3] Another factor for animal failure is that many electrical equipment and enclosures are warm and make an enticing nesting place during the winter.


Million-dollar equipment and interruption damages have lowered productivity, and unreliable systems are a few reasons why most electrical companies have resorted to different methods to mitigate numerous animal-related outages furthermore promote safety for wildlife. Some areas in Asia came up with a solution of relocating bird nests or making artificial bird nests to minimize outages caused by birds. Some utilities, cooperatives, and other power companies install effective fences and spikes to minimize roaming animals and birds from entering the premises. Another known method is the utilization of insulation products such as silicone tubes, tapes, sheets, and even pre-fabricated covers to prevent wildlife from possible contact with energized equipment and devices.


Midsun IKM, based in Austria, specializes in producing over 100 silicone protection products, e/products, that provide tracking resistance, thermal endurance, and UV protection. Some samples of these e/products are the self-fusing silicone tape offered at various widths based on the application, silicone covers that are designed at different sizes and shapes to make an optimal fit, barriers to block climbing animals and nesting animals, and also equipped with necessary accessories fit for different application. These are ready-made products for power companies, electrical substations, transmission, and distribution lines to show its commitment to protect power companies and mitigate risk to wildlife and weather interferences.


REFERENCES:


[1] Minnesota’s News Company. Cordes, K. (June 5, 2022). This Minnesota Animal Causes Power Outage to 4,000 Homes

[2] The New York Times. Vigdor, N. (March 10, 2022). A Bird Is Blamed as 10,000 Lose Power in New Orleans

[3] Vera Water & Power. What are the main causes of power outages?

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