Blue Ridge Energy Trims Trees by Helicopter
Aerial blades make quick work of right-of-way management
Blue Ridge Energy members have been sharing online photos and video of something you don’t see every day: an 800-pound, 10-blade aerial saw suspended from a helicopter. The Lenoir-based electric cooperative has been contracting with a professional aerial tree trimming firm in recent months as part of its right-of-way vegetation management program to maintain the most reliable electricity for its members.
“Given the machinery involved and the task being completed, I call it our ‘Chopper Chopper,’” said Blue Ridge Energy member Wendell McKenzie of Boone. “Needless to say, it has been an entertaining spectacle to observe, albeit from a safe distance.”
Blue Ridge Energy used the technique years ago, but is relying on more aerial tree pruning due to a shortage of tree workers and because it produces less impact to members’ property. It also is a safe and environmentally friendly vegetation management practice, approved by the American National Standards Institute. The method works well in difficult terrain like the mountainous territory served by Blue Ridge — helicopter pilots carefully conduct pruning, and trained spotters on the ground are in constant communication with the pilot. Blue Ridge Energy employees also are on site during the process.
“As with our traditional right-of-way trimming method, property owners are notified in advance of pruning and debris is removed from maintained areas. In non-maintained areas, debris is chipped or left to naturally biodegrade,” said Blue Ridge Energy Director of Operations Robert Kent.
Electric co-ops across the state work to maintain clean rights-of-way through power line corridors, which help prevent outages when high winds, snow and ice topple trees and limbs.
“Maintaining clear rights-of-way also helps ensure the safety of our crews,” Kent said. “And it helps them get the power back on faster should an outage occur.”
Make like a tree