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Potomac Edison Deploys Aerial Saw to Trim Trees in Hard-to-Access Areas

July 12, 2023
In 2022, the amount of time Potomac Edison customers experienced service interruptions due to trees dropped by 11%, excluding major storms, compared to the previous year.

FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary Potomac Edison is using a helicopter equipped with an aerial saw to trim trees and ensure proper clearance around high-voltage power lines and electrical equipment along nearly 45 transmission corridors in Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. The work will continue through the summer and is expected to be completed this fall.

The transmission corridors are located in Carroll, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties in Maryland; Berkeley, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral and Morgan counties in West Virginia; and Frederick, Page and Warren counties in Virginia.

"Taking this proactive step to reinforce our high-voltage lines against tree-related damage is an important part of our vegetation management program and an effective way to reduce or minimize service interruptions for our customers," said Linda Moss, president of FirstEnergy's Maryland operations. "This work complements the various investments we make in preserving and enhancing our electric grid each year."

In 2022, the amount of time Potomac Edison customers experienced service interruptions due to trees dropped by 11%, excluding major storms, compared to the previous year. Clearing incompatible vegetation under power lines also gives company personnel easier access to inspect and maintain lines and make repairs quicker if an outage occurs.

Suspended on a boom beneath the helicopter and equipped with multiple 24-inch rotary blades, the aerial saw is typically deployed along transmission lines in areas that are environmentally sensitive or inaccessible to bucket trucks and other vehicles. This fast, safe and efficient method of trimming typically covers more area in a day than a ground crew might complete in a week. The saw also eliminates the risk of injury to workers using bucket trucks or climbing trees to cut limbs near high-voltage equipment.

The saw cleanly cuts tree limbs 8 to 10 inches in diameter, which fall straight to the ground propelled by air blasts from the helicopter rotors. Ground crews move limbs that have fallen onto roads, yards, agricultural fields or in streams. The ground crew will also flag and stop motorists along roads if the aerial saw is working nearby.

The helicopter flies above and alongside transmission lines and may circle around to perform additional trimming. The pilot communicates with local airport personnel whenever the helicopter is operating within their air space.

The helicopter trimming trees along the transmission lines is a white Hughes MD500 with blue and yellow stripes prominently marked with a registration number of N1102D in blue paint. The helicopter and saw are owned and operated by Aerial Solutions and will work only as weather conditions permit.

In addition to trimming trees, helicopter crews have inspected nearly 1,500 miles of transmission lines (equal to about half the width of the United States) located in Potomac Edison's service territory. The inspections are designed to look for damaged wire, broken crossarms, failed insulators and other hardware problems not visible from the ground. Potential reliability issues identified during the inspection will be prioritized and addressed as quickly as possible. Vegetation management aerial patrols are also in progress to inspect vegetation on the transmission corridor.

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