Storms, baby birds causing power outages

A hat trick of power outages last weekend in Red Deer can largely to be blamed on normal summer occurrences — baby birds and summer storms.

A hat trick of power outages last weekend in Red Deer can largely to be blamed on normal summer occurrences — baby birds and summer storms.

Jim Jorgensen, Electric Light and Power Department manager for the City of Red Deer, said on Wednesday that there are a few times every year that several unrelated problems all occur about the same time, making it seem like there are more outages than normal.

But the city routinely sees a number of power outages occur almost like clockwork the last half of June, all of July and into the early part of August.

It’s the time when young birds are learning to fly and they end up getting into areas of the power system they shouldn’t, said Jorgensen.

“Young birds wreak havoc on power lines.

“We really see that this time of year, it’s consistent year over year, generally the younger ones trying to figure out what they should and shouldn’t do.”

If birds touch one wire, and then something that takes that current through them to the ground such as a bolt or another piece of metal, or reach across between two lines, they can create a path for the electricity to go through them instead of the wires.

Jorgensen said three unrelated events caused recent power outages. On Friday, two birds got into the lines downtown. On Sunday, a driver crashed into a power pole near the Lions Campground. Very early Monday morning, a storm came through, blowing around trees and resulting in a branch making contact with a power line.

As for power usage volumes, despite the spell of hot weather, there’s been no problem, he said.

Part of this is because residents and businesses have been stepping up conservation efforts, he believes.

Also helping is new power generation recently coming on line and improved power transmission lines that can handle the draw.

While winter is when peak usage of power occurs, they are seeing that the peaks in the summer are starting to creep up because more people are putting in air conditioning.

Most homes in new neighbourhoods have air conditioning and people in older neighbourhoods are adding it.

“It’s the reality of Red Deer in 2015.”

This year has been a good test of the improving provincial power system with the long stretch of warm weather, he said.

Watching power supply fairly closely lately, Jorgensen said he hasn’t seen it get into dangerous territory.

He strongly encourages the public to let the city know whenever there is a power outage. While the overall system does have the ability to locate problems, it doesn’t provide specific house detail, for example.

barr@bprda.wpengine.com

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