BY MELANIE YOUNG
Trenton residents and business owners in the area near the Kennedy Ice Arena plagued by an unusual amount of power outages last year may finally start to get some answers.
In December of 2017, Mayor Kyle Stack met with representatives from DTE Energy about the problem and invited them to speak at the Dec. 18 City Council meeting.
Jennifer Whitaker, government affairs representative for the Downriver area for DTE Energy, addressed those in attendance at the meeting. She revealed that the area near the Kennedy Recreation Center, Veterans Memorial Library, Trenton High School and the Westfield Activities Center had five power outages last year, and that two were caused by trees in the area. She stated that they will spend some time analyzing causes.
“We are looking to make system improvements over things we can control,” she said.
Whitaker explained that trees and tree-related events cause two-thirds of all power outages. She said that trimming trees improves reliability by 70 percent.
Nick Watson, the DTE engineer in charge of the city of Trenton, explained some of the reasons for the outages and some of the things the company plans to do to help prevent them in the future.
Watson said that a couple of the outages were caused by unusual circumstances. The outage at last year’s Trenton Summer Festival was caused by a Mylar balloon that hit the power lines while another was caused by a plumbing company that hit a wire while doing excavating work for the city.
One thing DTE plans to do to alleviate possible outages is to install sectionalizing and recloser devices on some of the overhead lines in the area. Sectionalizers are protective devices that automatically isolate a faulted section of the power line from the rest of the distribution system. A recloser is a device that is combined with a circuit breaker with an electronically controlled reclosing function that will automatically restore power to the affected line if the fault clears itself quickly. This would be especially helpful in the event of a tree limb or small animal touches the line for a short period of time.
DTE also plans to continue the routine line clearance program and pole top maintenance program to determine if there are any issues in other parts of the system.
Shannon Palmer, the operations manager for the Tree Trimming Department at DTE, and discussed how the tree trimming program can also help prevent outages.
Palmer explained that the company will trim one circuit in the city at a time. Residents will get letters and they will get the opportunity to work with planners from DTE. Planners go out prior to the work being done in a particular area to determine what trees need to be done. Palmer also stated that no work will be done on a homeowner’s property without their knowledge. Davey Tree is DTE’s subcontractor for the tree trimming work.
Council member William LeFevre voiced concern over the lack of completed repair of power lines in the downtown area after a power outage affected the Trenton Summer Festival a couple of years ago. Watson explained that the company is looking to get that done this year. He explained that since that incident occurred on a high transmission line, that needs to be shut down to complete the work. That work has to be done during low peak times.
LeFevre also stated he plans to keep track of the outages Trenton experiences over the next six months. “I’ve lived here a long time and recently I’ve seen five times more outages than ever before,” he said.