Where Every Osprey Counts
By Jessica Kurbatov, Lakeland Electric Intern
Lakeland Electric is committed to providing reliable service and sustaining a healthy ecosystem. Because of this commitment we have made continuous efforts for many years to protect the avian community.
Within Lakeland Electric’s service territory, early spring to early summer marks a period of Osprey mating season. With that activity comes nest building. Many times nests are built on top of electric distribution structures. Of all the Lakeland Electric customer outage causes in the fiscal year 2014, 39 percent were caused by animals, out of which Ospreys were 50 percent.
System Operations Engineer Stephen Perkins works on investigating outages, equipment failures, accidents, and improving reliability in areas such as animal protection. Over the years he has been investigating what can be done to protect the Ospreys as well as continuously improve the reliability program.
“Expanded efforts have been put into place in the last few years to monitor, respond and protect Ospreys and other large birds,” says Perkins. “Those efforts include the creation of an email group that is used to report Osprey activity. The recipients of these emails include an employee that tracks the activity, reliability crews that act as first responders, an employee to schedule the work, a line crew specifically assigned to mitigate the activity, and an operations engineer researching present and cutting edge protective devices for future use.”
Ospreys’ wings span from 59” to 71”, which makes them vulnerable to electrocution due to spacing of our 12,470 volt primary power lines, which are 28” between phases for horizontal crossarms and 36” for vertical. It is impractical from a cost standpoint to modify the existing power lines to have spacing wider than the wings of the Ospreys. A lower cost alternative is to protect the Osprey from making contact with an energized conductor or deter them from approaching the energized conductors completely. These two alternatives are what Lakeland Electric and many other utilities are doing. The process is tracked and completed following set guidelines.
“Our process is once we know of a location out there,” says Perkins, “not only do we go out and fix it but we continue to monitor for a few days after the protection is installed to make sure it is working.”
A variety of materials are incorporated for the protection process of Ospreys. A method that has been successful is a piece of PVC pipe that is fixed above a set of cross arms and is loose to rotate. When the Osprey lands on it, the PVC pipe moves and keeps the bird from perching.
Another method has been to drill holes in a PVC pipe where wire is put through, making it impossible for the Osprey to build a nest there. Plastic deterrents have been a safer alternative to use since wires tend to be conductive.
Alternative nesting sites have also been built to fit specifications. Metal dishes, which look like small satellite dishes, are put on top of an alternative structure with a pole nearby, encouraging the Osprey to move its location to the designated platform.
Lakeland Electric crews also know removing old nesting sites is the key in eliminating future hazards. Just tearing the nest down and leaving the sticks at the base of the poll will allow the Osprey to come back, pick the sticks up and put them on top of the poll. Therefore, our crews are instructed that an abandoned nest needs to be completely removed by precise guidelines that will cause an Osprey to have to rebuild a nest completely if it comes back.
Preventing the Osprey from creating problems in the electric system increases the reliability of Lakeland Electric and benefits our customers with working electricity. Assistant General Manager John McMurray oversees the vision of the project with increasing levels of awareness and efforts of avian protection.
“Lakeland Electric wants to protect wildlife from our electrical lines and equipment,” says McMurray. “We consider the reduction in outages a success due to the fact that we are making progress in protecting Ospreys from our lines thus reducing Osprey-caused outages.”
Since October 2014, Lakeland Electric experienced six Osprey-caused feeder outages during the first half of fiscal year 2015 and two during the first half of fiscal year 2016.
Wanting to get the number of outages the average customer receives to one or less, McMurray set a System Average Interruption Frequency Index (SAIFI) goal of 1.27 for 2015. SAIFI is calculated with the number of customer interruptions divided by the total number of customers served. At the end of 2015, the actual SAIFI was 1.35. The SAIFI goal for 2016 remains at 1.27, and with efforts such as the Osprey Protection Program, the team is well on their way to meeting that goal.
P.O. Box 32006
501 East Lemon Street
Lakeland, FL 33801-9881
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