Austin Energy lauded for its tree-trimming efforts
Arbor Day Foundation cites utility’s work in keeping power lines clear of branches.
For the 11th straight year, Austin Energy has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation for its efforts to keep power lines clear of trees.
Trees interfering with power lines are a constant utility nuisance and can lead to much worse.
The 2011 Bastrop County wildfires that destroyed more than 1,600 homes started after trees and branches, shaken by high winds, fell on power lines, which then sparked. The Travis County fire marshal attributed a fire that destroyed 23 homes in Steiner Ranch that year to Austin Energy electrical lines that touched each other, causing them to spark and ignite grass.
More commonly, trees entangling power lines can lead to power outages. The winds that brought an arctic cold front Monday were strong enough to lead one tree limb to damage a utility pole in South Austin, causing an early morning outage that temporarily left 2,300 people without power near Brodie Lane and West Gate Boulevard.
That sort of episode could be more frequent if not for tree-clearing efforts, Austin Energy officials said.
Austin Energy is one of at least nine utilities operating in Texas to win the designation as a Tree Line USA utility by the Arbor Day Foundation, which cited the city-owned utility’s efforts to trim trees and promote proper planting so trees don’t interfere with power lines.
Tree limbs making contact with power lines account for more than 60 percent of all of Austin Energy’s outages. Utility spokesman Carlos Cordova said reliable power “is not only important for our quality of life, but it’s also really important for our economy.”
“Data centers and semiconductor companies would not
come to Austin if we did not have good reliability,” he said.
Austin Energy trims trees along 2,300 miles of lines, too many to get to all in one year. It takes about $15 million a year to trim along an average of 400 miles of power lines and on 12,000 properties annually to prevent power outages, officials said in a statement.
Utility staff members meet property owners before trimming occurs and contact neighborhood associations to outline trimming plans. The utility employs 13 certified arborists to manage the work of contract tree trimming crews.