Managing Trees That Grow Near Power Lines
Having trees on your property adds a natural flair to the general aesthetics, but what do you do when they become a potential cause of danger? It’s no longer just an assumption, but a proven fact that overgrown trees have caused some of the most destructive disasters ever experienced.
And how do they do it? By interfering with the electrical poles and wires that they grow in close proximity to. Their influence is one sure example of how nature can go against the man when left uncontrolled.
How dangerous is letting trees grow near power lines?
The effects of this action are as damaging as they are widespread. Some of the commonest include:
- Large-scale power outages, when tree branches lead to disconnection of power lines that supply whole neighbourhoods. The lack of power then encourages crime and other forms of loss and damage.
- Fire outbreaks, which occur when dry tree branches pick up the sparks from a disconnected power line and burst into fire. The fire may then spread from one tree to other, causing widespread damage to houses and property.
- Electrocution, when trees in contact with power lines conduct electricity down to the earth, rendering them electrically charged and potentially hazardous. When touched, these trees pose the risk of electrocuting to death.
- Costs and liabilities, which are incurred by the homeowner whose tree resulted in any kind of damage after interfering with nearby power lines. These penalties are levied on the size or area of damage and can rack up to extreme amounts.
How to manage trees that are growing near the power lines
The only way to prevent disaster is to control the factor that is variable. Which, in this case, is the tree in question. The guidelines below should help you manage your trees with more ease.
If you intend to plant trees on your property and think they might interfere with the power lines above, you’ve got to consider a few things. Avoid the fast-growing tree species. Look for slower and shorter growing ones whose growth you will be able to control with ease. You can also ask your local electricity distribution company about the more appropriate species.
Follow planting guidelines
Australian law requires that certain distances be maintained between plants and electric line materials, both underground and overhead. Tree roots can interfere with underground electric cables just as negatively as overgrown branches can with overhead electric wires. To access these guidelines, check the Ausgrid website, or talk to the local council.
Embark on regular monitoring
Keep track of the height reached by the trees on your property, especially those in close proximity to power lines. Do not let trees grow within a metre of the power lines. Once they do, it is a sign that it is time for pruning. You should also look out for new shoots on trees, especially after the rainy season.
Carry out pruning
Pruning is done to trim back a tree that has overgrown its boundaries. The trimming is carried out by cutting short branches that have increased in length and eliminating those that have sprouted in large numbers. The main aim is to control the height and width to which a tree can grow or spread to.
The frequency at which pruning can be done on a tree depends on the speed at which it grows and the voltage assigned to the power lines in question. Trees near power lines with voltages of 230V/400V (low) may require pruning every five years. Those growing around power lines with voltages averaging between 11kv to 66 Kv have different requirements, though. Arborists recommend that they get trimmed every two years.
Homeowners should note that the above limitations in time intervals between pruning sessions do not account for fast growing species. Due to their uniqueness, they are most likely to require pruning more often.
Some tips to follow
Get a pruning specialist for each trimming session
Avoid pruning during periods of strong winds and extreme weather.
Have some trees removed
At the very worst, you may have to have a tree completely removed to minimise the negative effects of its proximity to electric wires and poles. It might be a tree that is proving too costly to prune regularly due to fast growth, or one that appears to have lost support from below due to failure in the root system.
Such a tree poses a risk in case it falls and pulls down the electric wires with it. Such scenarios necessitate the immediate removal of the tree. In such cases, you should have a professional tree removal service come to your property and give you an estimate first.
It goes without saying that having trees grow in close proximity with electric poles and wires poses a lot of danger for you and your neighbourhood. It might sound complex at first, but managing these trees before they grow out of hand is actually easy. The methods and tips above should guide you to safety with proper incorporation.