Mon Power is using helicopters equipped with aerial saws to trim trees and maintain clearances along hard-to-access transmission and distribution corridors throughout its service area. This cost-effective technology helps crews perform the vegetation-management work necessary to help lessen the frequency and duration of power outages associated with severe weather.
The aerial saw is typically deployed along transmission and distribution lines in rural areas. The helicopter saw works quickly in areas that may be environmentally sensitive or inaccessible to bucket trucks and other vehicles. In addition, the aerial saw also eliminates the risk of injury to workers using bucket trucks or climbing trees to cut limbs near energized lines.
"While the aerial saw doesn't replace conventional tree trimming methods, it is an efficient, cost-effective tool to help us control vegetation in rugged terrain or backcountry areas that have limited access," said Holly Kauffman, president of FirstEnergy's West Virginia Operations. "The helicopter aerial saw can cover more area in a day than a ground crew might complete in a week."
Mon Power expects to spend about $72 million in 2015 to trim trees and control vegetation along more than 4,500 miles of power lines to help enhance service reliability for customers. As part of this process, helicopter aerial saws are scheduled to be used to trim trees along about 700 miles of transmission lines through the end of the year. In addition, the aerial saw will be used to trim distribution circuits as well.
Mon Power has contracted with Rotor Blade and Aerial Solutions, which own and operate the helicopters and saws, to perform the work.
The highly trained helicopter pilots can hover and maneuver the saw's multiple, 24-inch rotary blades to cut cleanly and rapidly through tree limbs up to 10 inches in diameter. Suspended from a vertical boom beneath the helicopter, the saw can trim both sides of a 10-to-12-mile right-of-way in about a week. Ground crews work in tandem with the pilot, flagging traffic and removing limbs and smaller branches from roadways, trails, waterways, or other sensitive areas.
Mon Power typically uses personal contacts, door hangers, newspaper advertisements and other methods to alert property owners and local officials that the aerial saw will be trimming in their area.