Why is my power out?
When the weather is nice and a power outage occurs in Cuivre River Electric Cooperative’s service area, this is the question we hear from members most often.
Storms are indeed the most common culprit for an outage, but there are other and sometimes unusual reasons for why power goes out. Those reasons aren’t always clear, and diagnosing them isn’t always as simple as it may seem.
CREC System Engineering Facilitator Mike Ridenour, who has been with the co-op for 15 years, works daily to identify the cause of power interruption issues when they happen and help our lineworkers implement a solution. Outside of weather, other causes of disruption in power are more noticeable, such as if a vehicle hits a utility pole.
But what about those that are not so obvious? Ridenour provided a few examples:
- Animals — Despite the fact that CREC uses several types of squirrel guarding, these curious little animals as well as other small critters can be very clever in getting to transformers and wires, and causing havoc. When the lineman then rides out the line and can’t find a cause, it’s typically because an animal knocks the line out, then falls into the brush and isn’t always easy to find.
- Trees/heavy branches falling on power lines — If power goes out on a sunny day, the cause may be due to a falling tree taking a line down. While CREC has a proactive team who stays on top of clearing the right of ways along our distribution system, large trees outside of where the co-op can legally clear can fall on CREC lines, and sometimes break the pole as well.
- Equipment failure — Similar to right of way clearing, CREC has a regular program to inspect equipment and repair issues before they cause an outage. However, it’s still possible that a transformer or an underground cable reaches the end of its life, or a connection burns up and that results in an outage.
When an outage covers many miles of wire, finding its cause can be challenging. An intermittent outage earlier this year — one which crews thought they found and corrected the problem the first time the line went out — happened again. The issue was caused by another utility’s lines crossing CREC lines, hanging low enough that if the wind blew hard from the right direction, would hit the CREC lines.
The second time it happened, the other utility’s line hit for long enough that it welded to the CREC line. Crews could then visibly see this was definitely the issue and resolved it.
“Sometimes identifying the cause of outages is like finding a needle in a haystack,” Ridenour said, “but we’ll always continue looking to find and correct the things we can to improve members’ service.”
For more on power reliability and outage issues, visit our “Outage & Storm Information.” If you do experience an outage, please call us 24/7/365 at 800-392-3709.