Two birds, one stone: avian protection has consumer benefit

Dominion Virginia Power is killing two birds with one stone (so to speak). Thanks to an innovative new approach, bald eagles and other large birds will be safer around Dominion Virginia Power’s distribution lines — and reliability will increase, too.

Credit: Russian Raptor Research and Conservation Network

Bald eagle, osprey, and brown pelican populations were once on the decline in Virginia, but have made a significant comeback. With an increase in their populations, however, has come increased contact with Dominion’s distribution lines.

Dominion crews have begun a multi-year effort to increase the space between lines on many of its power poles to 56 inches or 60 inches, providing more clearance for birds with large wingspans, such as eagles, owls, herons, vultures and pelicans. Most of the distribution lines are currently 44 inches apart. While not increasing the spacing on every pole, the program will address about 20 percent of the poles and 80 percent of the bald eagle, osprey, pelican and blue heron populations.

“Moving forward our Avian Protection Program will save bird’s lives. Spreading the wires is the right thing to do for the environment,” said J. David Rives, senior vice president, Dominion Virginia Power.  “Twenty years ago, there were a handful of incidents each year.  Now with the dramatic increases in population, the large birds are expanding their territory, and we are expanding our efforts to protect them.”

In addition, customers will benefit from spreading the wires. “During storms or times of high wind, we will see reduced power outages as a result of the wires being further apart,” Rives said. Dominion’s line crews have been receiving training on the new program for the past three months and are now implementing the plan.

In rare instances, large birds actually fly into the wires. However, most deaths and injuries occur when the birds land on the cross arms and their wings make contact with wires, creating a path for the electricity. Protecting the large birds will require replacing existing 8-foot cross arms with 10-foot cross arms that will allow for the lines to be spaced out.  To make the program cost effective, crews will spread the wires or install perch diverts when they are doing new construction and replacing poles or cross arms that are part of planned projects.  The perch guard alternative is designed to prevent birds from landing on the cross arms. Perch guards are used when spreading the conductors out is not a viable option.

For more:
– see this background article

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