Each year, our crews trim trees and vegetation along 450 miles of power lines to ensure safe and reliable delivery of energy to homes and businesses.
“Trees and vegetation can grow into our lines, causing fires and knocking out power to entire neighborhoods,” said Jim Bennett, TEP Maintenance Planner and certified arborist. “It’s especially a problem during summer monsoon when high winds can topple trees or push them into our lines.”
To keep trees clear of our power lines, our crews patrol line routes in rights-of-way year-round to identify locations where trees need to be trimmed back. Pruning crews cover as much ground as possible every day, spanning our entire service area every six years. Crews are on-call 24/7 for emergencies.
We use a technique called “directional” or “lateral” pruning for trees that have the potential to interfere with electrical equipment. This method is approved by the U.S. Forest Service and the National Arbor Day Foundation for the health of the tree.
“Our crews receive extensive training on this technique. We help direct the tree to grow away from the power line, but we never take off more than we need to,” said Kasy Schug, Transmission Vegetation Project Manager and certified arborist.
None of the 30,000 cubic yards of green waste that is collected annually ends up at the landfill. Instead, it’s chipped into trucks and hauled to a compost at TEP’s Irvington campus for recycling by Civano Tree Farm and Nursery through a unique partnership.
“Civano recycles the mulching into a rich compost for young trees and shrubs,” Bennett said. TEP was among the first electric utilities in the country to begin recycling its green waste nearly 16 years ago, Bennett said. This sustainable practice not only reduces landfill waste, but also reduces costs for TEP and Civano.
While homeowners are responsible for preventing trees on their property from growing too close to utility equipment, they should never attempt to trim branches less than 10 feet from energized lines.
TEP will disconnect and move a service line to the home for no cost so a homeowner can safely trim trees. Customers can request this service by calling 520-918-822. To report tree branches growing into power lines, call TEP Customer Care at 520-673-7711.
Customers can prevent trees from growing into lines through careful selection of tree varieties and their placement around their property. Consider the canopy size and shape of the tree once it matures to ensure it will stay clear of lines.
Keeping lines clear is an important safety precaution, Schug said. Encroaching trees can cause fires and interrupt service to customers who depend on electricity for life support equipment.
“Outages can be very inconvenient, but they can also cause fires and endanger those who depend on power for medical reasons,” Bennett said. “We view our work as an integral part of our company’s overall effort to ensure the reliability of our service and customer safety.”