Trees and Power Lines Don't Always Mix

Trees and Power Lines Don't Always Mix

Trees add beauty to any landscape, but they have some impressive practical benefits as well. They clean the air, reduce carbon dioxide and (when positioned correctly) provide protection from wind and sun, reducing heating and cooling costs. If a tree grows too close to a power line, however, it can cause power outages and become a life-threatening danger.

A growing problem

Trees can be a contributing factor to as many as 50 percent of power outages. Problems can occur suddenly, such as when a branch breaks during a wind or ice storm. Issues can also develop over time through natural growth patterns. Growing branches begin to crowd or rub against power lines.

Trees located near power lines represent a real threat to children who may be tempted to climb them, or to homeowners attempting to tackle a trimming job on their own. Tree limbs and branches that come into contact with power lines may themselves become energized.

Trimming back 

To improve safety and reduce the risk of power outages, your power company maintains a vigilant program of tree and brush removal and trimming. Trimming is performed according to directional pruning techniques that meet the standards of the National Arborist Association, the American Association of Nurserymen and other groups.

Directional pruning guides new growth away from power lines. Limbs or portions of limbs growing near power lines are trimmed back to the main branch or trunk, where they would naturally shed if the limbs died from natural causes. This preserves the natural defense system of the tree and minimizes impact on the crown. In some situations, an entire tree is removed. This may be because the tree is leaning toward a power line or it has a structural defect that increases its risk of falling.

Right place, right tree

Adding trees to your landscape? Carefully consider different tree species and how they may affect power lines on your grounds. No tree should be planted near high-voltage transmission lines. Some species, however, normally grow to a mature height of 20 feet or less. These include:

  • Crabapple
  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Hawthorne
  • Bristlecone Pine
  • Common Juniper
  • Trident, Amur, Paperback, and Tartarian Maples
  • Rose Acacia

These species can typically provide an attractive addition to your landscape without interfering with distribution lines. 

The following species, however, grow particularly tall and should be planted no closer than 60 feet from distribution lines:

  • Oak
  • Colorado Blue Spruce
  • Silver and Norway Maples
  • Most pine species

If you're planning a landscape project, overhead power lines are not your only concern. Call 811 before you dig. Knowing where utility lines are buried can help you avoid injury, service outages and costly repairs.

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