For Entergy’s vegetation management team, there are many useful tools and strategies utilized to properly maintain greenery around power infrastructure. However, one method stands on its own – both in appearance and in efficiency.
The aerial saw, which Entergy recently brought back into operation in partnership with Aerial Solutions, Inc., extends 130 feet below a hovering helicopter and includes ten 24-inch blades. With a gentle throttle by the pilot, the suspended circular saw blades can trim a targeted 20-foot path through a clustered Southern tree line along the edge of a towering transmission line.
One of the best ways to reduce interruption to electric service is by maintaining adequate clearance between power lines and trees. There are more than 16,000 miles of transmission lines carrying high-voltage electricity to communities throughout Entergy’s service territory. The aerial saw provides a safe and efficient tool for crews to maintain vegetation around power transmission and distribution systems.
“There is no comparison when I think about the effectiveness of this tool,” said Curtis Robertson, Operations Coordinator for Entergy’s Vegetation Support team. “From the marshes in Louisiana to the mountains in Arkansas and everything in between, managing vegetation around our lines can be challenging with ground-based equipment. To operate in many of these environments, there is no better tool at our disposal than the aerial saw.”
Typical ground-based tree trimming equipment reaches a maximum height of 65-70 feet in the air. With the aerial saw, the sky is the limit. Robertson remarked that a recent project in Arkansas - which would typically require up to 8 months to complete with traditional, ground-based equipment - was completed in just 4 weeks with the aerial saw.
Due to the extraordinary efficiency of this tool, Entergy’s vegetation management teams are able to replace some of the higher-cost, manual trimming activities across Entergy’s service territory to save both time and money.
“When we put together our tree-trimming strategy, the most important things to consider are the safety of our crew members, the ability to maximize reliability for our customers, and the efficiency of the operation in order to manage costs,” said Robertson. “The aerial saw is achieving all of the above, systemwide.”
Entergy performs trimming on transmission right-of-ways on an as-needed basis determined by aerial and ground based patrols. Crews use industry measures to preserve the health of the trees to the degree possible. To do this, they follow specifications developed by the International Society of Arboriculture.