Consumers Energy to clear more trees from power lines - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Consumers Energy to clear more trees from power lines

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FLINT (WJRT) -

(02/19/14) - The next time a major ice storm hits Mid-Michigan, Consumers Energy believes there will be fewer outages. That's because the utility company is getting more aggressive in clearing away tree limbs that can bring down power lines.

400,000 Consumers Energy customers were knocked off the grid after the ice storm hit just before Christmas. Many were without power for eight or nine days. A Consumers spokesman says the company learned a lot from the storm.

The Genesee County Board of Commissioners asked Consumers Energy to explain why there were so many outages and what's being done to limit damage in the future. Kevin Keane told commissioners heavy ice, up to 3-quarters of an inch thick, pulled down nearly 11,000 power lines around the state.

"The Christmas week ice storm was the most severe ice storm at Christmas time the company had ever experienced," Keane said.

Power lines already weighed down with ice were strained even more by tree limbs.

"Well over a third of the interruptions from the ice storm was the direct results of interference by trees. Line clearing is one of the most critical jobs the utility can do," Keane said.

He told commissioners they'll see the utility company take a lot of preventative measures - work that should lower the damage toll when storms hit in the future.

"Over the next five years, Consumers Energy plans to spend $530 million in improved reliability. That will include work on trees, substations, lines, poles, all the support equipment," Keane said.

On a related note, Keane says progress is being made on Consumer Energy's second wind park in Tuscola County. Sixty-two wind turbines should be up and running by the end of the year. The company hopes to have 10 percent of its energy coming from renewable sources by 2015.

Consumers Energy just opened a new service center in West Branch, which will be a hub for meter readers and maintenance crews.

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