What do lightning and squirrels have in common? While this may sound like the setup for a silly joke, it is a very real question, and the answer might surprise you. Lightning and squirrels cause many of the power outages on our electric systems.
Tennessee’s electric cooperatives work very hard to avoid power outages, but, despite our best efforts, interruptions do occur from time to time. You might find it interesting to know the most common causes of power outages:
The top three troublemakers to electric reliability are trees falling on power lines and other interferences from vegetation, lightning strikes and animals going about their daily routines — especially squirrels that chew on electrical equipment.
With thousands of poles along the side of the road, outages caused by car accidents bringing down electrical infrastructure are nearly unavoidable. However, other human-caused outages are entirely avoidable. Nationally there has been an uptick in incidences of vandals deliberately damaging electrical equipment.
You trust your local electric cooperative to keep the lights on, and that is a responsibility co-op employees take very seriously. We know that power interruptions, even momentary ones, can create significant issues for your family, and that is why co-ops are looking at our systems with fresh eyes and focusing on reliability.
We are expanding right-of-way programs to keep vegetation away from power lines, and we are installing animal guards to stop critters from venturing too close to our sensitive equipment. We are also working with local law enforcement to be sure that critical infrastructure is protected from vandalism. You can play a role in this, too. If you see something that seems odd, let your electric cooperative know.
Our power system is part of a much larger grid, so we are also working with our power supplier, the Tennessee Valley Authority, to ensure that our community has the energy we need when we need it.
Finally, I cannot talk about reliability without mentioning our dedicated employees at Tennessee’s electric cooperatives who work day in and day out to keep the power flowing and spring into action to get it back on if it goes out. I am honored to work alongside people who take such great pride in what they do. When your lights come on with the flip of the switch, our line crews, system operators, engineers and support staff deserve a ton of credit.