November wind storm impacts 2017 outage statistics
Constant maintenance program, technology continues to pay off
Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative's annual outage statistics were looking impressive until 90 mph straight-line winds hit northeastern Ohio in November, skewing LMRE's numbers.
For the other 11 months of the year, LMRE averaged 35 outages per month. In November, the number of outages more than doubled to 78.
“Without a doubt, that storm in November was the worst one we have had since the ice storm of 2005,” said Operations Manager Tim Rising, who was a lineman in 2005 when 7,500 LMRE consumers lost power. The November storm caused more than 3,000 outages and marked the first time since 2005 that the cooperative was unable to restore everyone's power within a 24-hour period. Mutual aid from LMRE's sister cooperative — North Central Electric Cooperative in Attica — was called in to help restore power.
About 75 percent of LMRE members had power restored within three hours when line crews were able to clear lines of fallen tree limbs. This allowed Rising to restore power to major substation circuits by remotely operating line switches from his desk computer using LMRE's supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, which helps restore power faster than having line crews do everything manually in the field.
For 2017, LMRE finished with 472 outages, just two over the 10-year average. The average length of time members were without power in 2017 was three hours. That’s the highest rate since 2012 and above the 10-year average of 2.27 hours. It marks just the fourth time in the past 10 years the average length of time members were without power exceeded two hours.
“Our outages may have increased slightly in 2017, but when you look at the 10-year history, we believe these are strong numbers,” Director of Engineering and Operations Brad Warnement said. “Our maintenance efforts clearly show when severe weather hits. Plus, our investment in technology helps reduce the length of outages.”
Reducing span length between poles, conducting regular pole testing, tree-trimming, and removal of vegetation is important to the reliability of LMRE lines. The cooperative has an aggressive right-of-way program, spending more than $1 million every three years. Yet trees still represent one of the largest causes of outages. Clearing tree branches and vegetation from rights-of-way reduces blinks and outages.