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Choose The Right Trees For Energy Efficiency, Electrical Safety, Reliability And Environmental Benefits When Landscaping

Whether planting trees to celebrate Arbor Day, provide a wind break, reduce carbon in the environment or to beautify your landscape, Safe Electricity reminds everyone of the importance of planting tall-growing trees safely away from power lines. Seek help in choosing and placing trees and bushes that provide shade, color and screening that won’t grow to interfere with the electric supply.

Trees that grow too close to electric lines can create shock and fire hazards as well as power outages. As part of the “Teach Learn Care TLC” campaign, parents and caregivers are urged to teach children never climb trees near power lines. The program also warns to never trim trees that are close to power lines – leave that to the professionals.

“Trees provide many aesthetic, environmental and economic benefits, including energy-efficient shade and cooling during hot summer months, or natural windbreaks against winter winds,” says Erin Hollinshead, Safe Electricity Executive Director. “But everyone needs to be aware of the dangers and risks created when trees grow into power lines, and the importance of calling the utility or utility locator service before beginning any landscaping project.”

“Landowners also need to understand utility line clearance practices and why they’re important to safe and reliable electric service,” adds Hollinshead.

Take the time to research tree selections by consulting your local arborist, tree nursery or utility – experts who can provide assistance in designing a beautiful, shade-filled yard with trees appropriate for each area of the landscape.

In addition, trees help combat the effects of pollution by absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2). When trees grow, they take energy from the sun and combine it with carbon from the air to photosynthesize. They remove carbon from the air and sequester or store it in their biomass, or the wood, and in the ground. This makes trees a natural “carbon sink” or, a living source of carbon reduction. Some trees are better suited for this task than others and, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), tree species that grow quickly and live long are ideal carbon sinks.

Choosing the right tree for the right place is crucial, especially when it comes to power lines. Trees and wood conduct electricity and can create a safety hazard if grown close to electric lines. Power outages or momentary interruptions can occur when branches come into contact with overhead lines. Electrical arcing and sparking from a wire to a nearby branch also can cause fires.

But a greater concern is the safety risk when children climb trees near power lines. Accidental contact of electric wires with a tree limb or playing and trimming around the tree can be fatal.

If you have trees that appear to be growing into power lines, contact your electric utility. Never try to prune them yourself. Utilities have or can recommend skilled professionals trained to safely prune and trim trees for electric line clearance.

To avoid future electrical hazards, safe planting tips to remember include:

  • Consider mature height of trees. Never plant a tree that could grow to 25 feet or more near a power line. Tall growing trees should be planted a minimum of 20 feet away from power lines, and 50 feet away to avoid future pruning. A mature height of less than 15 feet is recommended for trees planted near power lines.
  • Do not plant near underground utility services. Tree roots can grow to interfere with underground pipes, cables and wires. Future repairs to these facilities also could damage the health and beauty of nearby plants and trees.
  • Keep areas around electric meters, transformers or other electrical equipment free of any vegetation that could limit utility service access.
  • Before digging, call the local underground utility locator service to mark location of underground utilities so that accidental contact, damage and injuries can be avoided.

There are many beautiful varieties of trees, low-growing trees and shrubs that provide color, screening and shade, and enhance the quality of life in our communities and environment,” says Hollinshead. “Consider the types of trees that co-exist well with power lines and the environment to avoid the need for trimming for line clearance.”