Interruptions for Improvements

December 2020

Like any electric provider, Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) aims to make your electric service as reliable as possible. Planned power outages — though rare — help us achieve that goal.

Regular maintenance like replacing damaged or deteriorating poles or trimming trees near power lines may require planned outages. It is sometimes better to take down a line for an hour or so rather than risk a tree or branch falling on a line while being trimmed and causing damage that might take three or four hours to fix.

SVEC trims each section of its primary electric lines every three-and-a-half years, on average. Even so, most outages on SVEC’s system are caused by trees or branches falling on lines.

Scheduled outages may also be necessary when installing equipment that strengthens the grid and improves reliability, such as stronger wires, devices that protect equipment from wildlife and extreme weather, and automatic switches that isolate outages and restore power within minutes.

To make these upgrades, SVEC sometimes shuts off power to allow cooperative employees to work in a safe environment. Systems Operator Clent Flowers approaches each repair on a case-by-case basis, planning a brief interruption of service when necessary.

“You don’t want to get up there and have someone trying to cut a limb over a hot wire,” he says. “If a branch is hanging real low, it’s possible it could fall and hit the wire when you’re cutting it. We have to put the safety of our linemen first.”

Planning Ahead

A third reason planned outages may occur is the need to relocate lines and other equipment for improved reliability or ahead of public infrastructure improvements like road expansion projects.

SVEC works hard relocating the most problematic lines from heavily forested areas to roadsides. Doing so reduces the likelihood of outages from falling tree limbs and helps linemen make repairs faster when problems do occur. Since the co-op began its line relocation initiative in 2018, 89 sections of line with a total length of 61 miles have been moved to areas that are more easily accessible.

“We’re not unlike a lot of co-ops that have been around for 80 years or more,” says SVEC Director of Engineering Kurt Miller. “We have a lot of lines that were put in where the trees have now grown up or where there were no roads at the time.”

While planned outages rarely last more than a couple of hours at the most, SVEC tries to avoid them if at all possible. When possible, SVEC will backfeed, or reroute, electricity to consumer-members over a different line. Whenever we do need to schedule an outage, we strive to provide our members with plenty of notice so they can prepare and mitigate any inconveniences the outages might cause.

For outages only affecting a few members, SVEC employees may call each household individually. For larger outages impacting 10 or more members, automated calls will go out to everyone downline from the outage 24 to 48 hours in advance.

To make sure the cooperative can reach you in the event of a planned outage, members should make sure the cooperative has their current phone number on file. By helping us keep up-to-date information, SVEC can maintain reliable electric service without surprises.

Keeping your contact information updated helps SVEC:

  • Respond to your outages faster
  • Process outages efficiently
  • Notify you when planned outages are scheduled

If your contact information has changed recently, please update it using SmartHub or by calling Member Services at (800) 447-4509 to help us better serve you.

Pole Position

SVEC inspects thousands of poles every year.

  • 2020
    • Poles inspected: 14,329
    • Poles replaced: 641
    • Miles of ROW cut: 974
  • 2019
    • Poles inspected: 11,284
    • Poles replaced: 826
    • Miles of Right of Way (ROW) cut: 1,253

Information through September

Weathering Planned Power Outages

While losing power, even for a little while, is not ideal, consumer-members can take several steps to lessen the inconvenience caused by a planned outage:

  • Make sure cellphones are adequately charged.
  • Keep refrigerators and freezers closed to preserve the cold temperatures.
  • Make sure garage doors can be manually opened.
  • Notify alarm system companies of the impending outage.
  • If you desire to use a standby generator during a planned outage, make sure it has been properly installed. Improperly installed generators can damage property or harm others.