Eversource boosting reliability

Utility company works to improve accessibility, safety and accuracy of transmission

Adam Urquhart Michael Babineau, Eversource Transmission Arborist, Sarah Hoodlet, Siting and Construction Services Specialist and Elise Ward, Siting and Construction Services Specialist stand at a completed work site in Nashua looking on at the weathering steel poles that replaced wooden ones.

NASHUA – Eversource is having work done across the state to improve accessibility, safety and reliability of its transmission rights-of-way that deliver power to the thousands of homes they service.

Kaitlyn Woods, Eversource media relations specialist said, “Storms illustrate the importance of this work.”

Vegetation management is underway in Hudson and Goffstown as well as other upgrades. The company just completed work in Merrimack, as well, and some existing wooden power poles have been replaced with new weathered steel ones. Eversource did this in a Nashua neighborhood in the fall of 2016.

Michael Babineau, Eversource transmission arborist said large weather events, like we saw this past winter, can cause trees to fall. Through their transmission rights-of-way reliability program, they’re able to mitigate the danger of falling trees with vegetation management.

Babineau said this past winter there weren’t a lot of outage events, and “that’s a testament to the work we’ve done.”

In these situations, where crews go out and clear trees, they aren’t just chopping down whatever vegetation they want. Instead, Babineau said they own an easement where they have the legal right to manage vegetation within the peripheral zone of the rights-of-way on either side of the wire zone, where the peripheral zone meets the yards of nearby property owners. They hire a third party to do the easement. Prior to beginning any work, Eversource distributes letters to residences surrounding the work sites, notifying them of the work they’ll be doing in advance.

Babineau said, “What we do is start off sending a letter to notify them that work is approaching. We contract out a company who specializes in outreach.”

They also work with whatever town or city they’re doing work within to address any issues.

Woods said there are occasions where neighbors want a tree removed for risks to their property and the wires, and they’ll then remove that tree for them along with their vegetation management work. After the vegetation has been cleared, they offer mitigation by offering to plant compatible species that have a max height where they won’t impact the lines.

Woods said by planting these species, it makes the properties whole.

Depending on the site, after the vegetation has been cleared, they may replace the existing wooden poles with steel ones.

Elise Ward, siting and construction services specialist, said there are more lines in the southern part of the state looking both east and west, and they’re doing this sort of work all over their system.

In regard to replacing wooden poles with steel ones, Ward said, “Woodpeckers damage the wooden ones, and they’ve deteriorated over time,” adding that, “Using weathering steel ones make the system more resilient, protecting our infrastructure.”

As Eversource continues upgrading aging and obsolete equipment across the state, Woods said throughout the state, transmission maintenance is replacing approximately 450 structures this year, and last year for maintenance there were approximately 130 structures replaced.

They also do regular inspections to see which poles may need to be replaced, and what areas need vegetation management. They do so using one of three methods.

“We do regular inspections using drones, a helicopter and on foot,” Ward said.

Those inspections then bring areas in critical need to their attention, and they’ll then address those areas first. Ward said the first time they used a drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in New Hampshire was in Nashua.

“It gets good footage, and we don’t have to drive, and helicopters can be invasive,” Ward said.

Just as they work closely with the towns and cities they’re working within, they also do so with the neighbors surrounding their right-of-way corridor so that they are aware and understand the work being done behind their homes.

“We want to be a good neighbor,” Ward said.

Echoing that thought was Sarah Hoodlet, siting and construction services specialist, who said whether it’s letters sent out or phone calls made, Eversource really wants to make sure everything is good with those neighboring the transmission right-of-way.

“We want to make sure everyone is on the same page,” Hoodlet said.

Babineau said, “What all this work does is increase reliability and safety tenfold, so, in the long run there is far less outages and greater reliability.”

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.