Energy Manufacturing and Wildlife Research - Working Together

published: 2019-07-10 10:02 | editor: | category: News

The effect of power networks on wildlife, and the corresponding effect of wildlife on power networks, has become of increasing concern over the last two decades. This is encouraging collaboration between the energy manufacturing industry and various wildlife research bodies.

The global energy sector clearly understands that any meaningful control over the actions of wildlife that come into contact with power networks is almost impossible to avoid. If an animal interferes with equipment at a substation, it can be fatal to them and this can also result in outages within the power grid. Meanwhile, utility workers also need to consider wildlife and insects that are attracted to substation and powerline environments, often having to use protective equipment and protocols for dealing with them.

As human civilization expands, the rising demand for electrical grids means that wildlife territory and man-made infrastructure will increasingly overlap – in fact, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, power distribution lines cause an estimated 174 million bird deaths annually.  It is clear that energy manufacturing and utility companies have a growing responsibility to protect both the wildlife and the power grid over the years to come.

If there was any doubt about the seriousness of the situation, this explanation of a typical working week by wildlife biologist Rick Harness of EDM International – a business that provides engineering and environmental services to the electric utility industry – definitely brings things into perspective:

“It is normal to get multiple calls or emails during the day to help clients with any variety of issues on their grid. For example, last week we received a call regarding animals taking out costly breakers, newly installed on the east coast. Later in the week, we were contacted by a different utility having issues with starlings overwhelming a substation on the west coast, and mixed in with this was helping a utility to address recent electrical trips on their system due to eagles nesting on a 500 kV tower.”[i]

What can be done to improve the situation?

Issues like these, and many others involving all types of wildlife, are the reason why industry specialists are developing a whole range of products which aim to address this challenge. From animal guards that add obstacles within the power infrastructure, to reduce the incidence of ‘flashovers’, through to clever designs for latticework bushing covers – which no longer have to be removed to be inspected – companies like TE Connectivity are coming up with new and innovative ways to combat an ever-growing problem.

But with such a widely recognised situation, which affects power networks and wildlife populations worldwide, even more must be done – hence a new level of interdisciplinary cooperation between wildlife research and the energy manufacturing sector is starting to emerge. With vital insight from scientific experts, the designers of Wildlife and Asset Protection (WAP) products are able to develop even more sophisticated solutions – which will help to achieve an even greater resolution to this problem over the coming years.

For example, as a result of vital data on animal behavior made available by the scientific community – such as migration patterns and other ecological sensitivities – key WAP product lines offered by TE and its industry colleagues are evolving and becoming more sophisticated, enabling them to better address the needs of the industry. This is because they are designed with vital knowledge in mind, and manufactured to the highest possible quality, to achieve the necessary standards which are set by the scientific community.

How are WAP standards implemented?

There are a number of different bodies that work together to develop industry-wide standards, which are designed to assist the utility industry worldwide in addressing the challenge of Wildlife and Asset Protection. One excellent example is the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC), which has developed a voluntary, utility-specific Avian Protection Plan (APP), designed to ‘reduce the operational and avian risks that result from avian interactions with electric utility facilities’[ii]

APLIC also offers an APP Guideline document which provides a framework, along with principles and examples, to help each utility company develop its own individual Avian Protection Plan – with the overall goal of reducing bird fatalities caused by power networks and substations. These APPs are ‘living documents’ which can be continually evaluated and refined over time, to ensure that they stay current with the latest industry research and knowledge.

Comprehensive WAP standards documentation of this type, but not just limited to avian issues, can be tailored for any type of utility business in any geographical region. Generally such standards would cover corporate policy around a company’s commitment to work cooperatively towards the protection of wildlife, alongside the following key areas:

  • Training of appropriate personnel
  • Construction design standards for wildlife protection
  • Reporting systems to track animal and bird mortalities
  • Risk assessment methodologies to aid in the identification of key risk areas
  • Mortality reduction measures that can be implement to minimize electrocution
  • Awareness activities to educate the public about power line issues and solutions in relation to wildlife

Over the years, the most succefful and effective implementations of WAP have been conducted through collaborative approaches involving utilities, wildlife protection organizations, and government agencies. One such approach was instigated by Dr. Ofer Bahat, director of  the Israel Nature Reserves and Parks Authority, who coordinated a successful program to protect the griffon vulture population in the country. This program was based on a collaborative approach between the IEC (the Utility), the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (Ministry of Environment), and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. The project reduced vulture mortality by almost 95% in the 1990s – thus saving it from extinction.

Where does TE fit in?

TE Connectivity has more than 30 years’ experience in Wildlife and Asset Protection, with a longstanding history of participating in wildlife research, attending and speaking at wildlife conventions, and providing input into standards like these. As such, its product design teams thoroughly understand the challenges which utility companies face, as well as the stringent laws and regulations which exist around the globe in relation to wildlife protection.

Furthermore, TE’s engineers are more than happy to use this knowledge and insight to work with customers throughout every stage of a project – from early design to installation and training, to create the best possible WAP solution for each utility company.

[i] Grimason, Maggie. ‘‘An Interview with Rick Harness of EDM International’’. New Mexico Avian Protection Working Group, 14 April 2017.

[ii] The Edison Electric Institute’s Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). ‘‘Avian Protection Plan (APP) Guidelines’’. APLIC, April 2005.

 (Source: TE Connectivity)

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