Baldwin EMC’s service area is blessed to be surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty. Even despite Hurricane Sally’s destructive impacts last year, the Gulf Coast of Alabama is still fortunate to have many trees that offer beauty, shade and a habitat for all sorts of birds and other wildlife.
At Baldwin EMC, we strive to balance maintaining beautiful surroundings with a reliable power supply by keeping power lines clear in rights of way (ROW). And the team that takes on this task receives an immense amount of training both in a classroom and on the job, which enables them to approach their work in a way that’s not only effective, but environmentally sustainable.
A right of way is the land we use to construct, maintain, replace or repair, underground and overhead power lines. Rights of way enable Baldwin EMC to provide clearance from trees and other obstructions that could hinder the power line installation, maintenance or operation. The overall goals of our vegetation management program are to ensure safety by eliminating “danger trees,” provide reliable power and keep the co-op’s costs down, while maintaining the beauty of our community.
First and foremost, as always, the safety of Baldwin EMC’s members and employees is our number one priority. Unchecked foliage can create a hazardous situation that might not be obvious to the untrained eye. “Overgrown vegetation and trees pose a risk to power lines,” says Ivy Knight, a 25-year Baldwin EMC employee who serves as superintendent of right of way and large construction. “If trees are touching power lines in our members’ yards, they can pose serious danger to families. If children can access those trees, they can potentially climb into a danger zone.”
One of the biggest benefits of a smart vegetation management program is reliability. Strategic tree trimming reduces the frequency of downed lines that can cause power outages. “Generally speaking, healthy trees don’t fall on power lines, and clear lines don’t cause problems,” Knight explains. “Without proactive vegetation management, we’d have to deal with many more trees and branches on power lines during severe weather, which is more complicated and dangerous for line crews restoring power.”
Additionally, since Baldwin EMC is a not-for-profit cooperative, we strive to keep our costs in check and our rates affordable. This extends to our approach to vegetation management. If trees grow too close to power lines, the potential for expensive repairs also increases. Effective tree trimming and other vegetation management efforts keep costs down for everyone.
The training our right of way crews have is extensive, and not only enhances their safety, but also their ability to carry out their jobs with minimal impact to our area’s natural vegetation. “We don’t trim more than we need,” Knight says. “And we do so in a way that preserves the health and integrity of trees and other foliage.”