WCEC’s mission is to provide reliable, affordable energy to all our members. While we are ready to respond 24/7 to any outage, we also work hard to prevent outages before they occur. We utilize several different approaches to maintaining a reliable electric grid. A few are listed here.
PROTECTING THE LINES
It takes dedication and constant attention to maintain our distribution system. Tree limbs, rotted wood and underbrush all increase the chance of broken poles and lines, and the disruption to our system for possibly hundreds of members. To prevent such damage, Wharton County Electric Cooperative has a system for inspecting and maintaining our equipment as well as keeping the right-of-ways clear around power lines.
Each year we inspect and treat wood poles in an effort to provide more reliable electric service and to also enhance public safety. This environmentally safe and approved process adds to the life of aging poles and prevents costly premature replacement. The inspection process also allows us to locate poles that are in need of replacement. By removing tree limbs and controlling undergrowth, we lessen the chance of damage to our power lines from falling limbs and brush fires. All of this helps provide reliable service to our members.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
It’s not enough to keep the electric system in great shape and the lines free of trees. We must also be ready to meet the growing needs of the WCEC service territory. To help anticipate and prepare for future demand, we develop and follow a two-year work plan.
Through our work plan, we are able to take data from accounting, consumer information and our mapping system to determine the needs of WCEC’s electrical system over the next two years. The plan includes new construction and equipment, equipment replacement, sectionalizing improvements and much more. Power lines can become overloaded as neighborhoods expand or new businesses are built. Through the two-year work plan, we can meet that demand before it has a chance to cause outages.
THE POWER OF TECHNOLOGY
The two-year work plan and the right-of-way maintenance program enables us to greatly increase system reliability — and this means that our members experience fewer outages. We also depend heavily on technology to monitor our system and help prevent outages. The SCADA, or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system, allows WCEC to remotely control various pieces of field equipment. The SCADA system allows us to isolate outages and perform switching without rolling a truck. This helps us restore power quickly to many of our members. SCADA will also allow us to know where we have problems with our system in some cases before we receive a single phone call. SCADA makes us much more efficient and certainly reduces outages.
COMMON CAUSES OF OUTAGES
More than 70% of power outages are weather-related, including storms, high winds, lightning, and ice. But they aren't the only causes; outages can happen at any time of the year. Animals gnawing into and making contact with wires, car accidents and human error can also cause outages. Damage from weakened trees can result in a loss of power weeks after a severe weather event.
We prepare year-round to help get your power back on as safely and quickly as possible after a severe weather event. Some of the most common causes of outages include:
Freezing rain - Ice accumulates and covers power lines causing them to sag and break.
High winds - High winds can cause tree branches and limbs to make contact with power lines.
Poor driving conditions - When roads get wet or slick, dangerous driving conditions and accidents can damage electrical equipment.
Lightning - When lightning strikes, it can cause damage to electrical equipment or surrounding trees.