Substations


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Let's face it...Substations are, for all practical purposes, steel boxes containing a great deal of energized equipment in close proximity to grounded surfaces. In other words, it would be easier to find the few places where animal contacts can't occur than to identify each place where they can. And the animals that do get into substations are, indeed, many and varied.

Birds are responsible for more substation outages than any other animal. As if that weren't enough, birds are also the indirect cause for the majority of substation outages caused by other animals. We discussed in our section on birds (Search by Animal) some of the typical behavior that explains why birds are such a problem. If you haven't read it yet, click on the link... it will help.

We will try to take a systematic approach and divide birds causing substation outages into three groups:

Roosting birds are a real problem, not only causing outages but also contaminating everything in sight. And they are very difficult to remove (people who use the expression "stubborn as a mule" have never dealt with roosting birds). Some utilities have come up with some ingenious ideas that have worked for them, but the general idea is to make the birds perceive the substation (their comfortable, safe roosting site) uncomfortable and dangerous. The Animal Damage Control Services of the United States Department of Agriculture has some ideas that may help. If you choose to use a method or device to frighten the birds (noise, phyrotechniques, etc.), your only chance of success is consistency. That means having someone at the substation every day, as the birds come in to roost, for as long as it takes, whether it's days or weeks. If you're successful in driving the birds away, some utilities use porcupine wire on the most accessible perching sites to keep new roosts from forming. Usually you will have more luck driving birds away if you can catch them as they are trying to form a roost. This means having the crews keep a sharp eye out for the first signs of a bird invasion.

Nesting birds tend to cause a different kind of problem. They do cause outages by dropping nesting material or accidental wingtip contacts. But the biggest problem with nesting birds are the predators they attract. This means squirrels, raccoons, cats, opossums, snakes, rats, and even raptors. As we mentioned before, removing the nests is not always the best answer, some birds will try repeatedly to re-build their nests, actually increasing the chances of an outage. For those nests you can remove, cover or fill the nesting site with heavy mesh. If you choose to leave the nest, keep the area clear of loose nesting materials and predator-proof the substation.

Special note...Do not predator-proof the substation before dealing with the birds. If you do, you will have provided a safe and secure haven for your feathered friends. And the birds will show their appreciation by inviting their friend and relatives to join them.

Raptors will sometimes cause substation outages while hunting if they spy small animals hanging around looking for bird eggs. These types of outages are relatively rare, but, because of the raptor's protected status, they are matter of some concern.

Snakes, nationwide, are the second leading cause of substation outages. In many parts of the country, they cause far more substation outages than birds. Snakes, of course, are superb climbers, but, we tend to forget what small openings they can get through. And, because of their length, it's almost impossible to install effective equipment protection.

Many utilities have had success using this type of "snake fence". It's quick and easy to install, the angled top keeps snakes from climbing, but it is essential that there are no openings (particularly around the gate).
Some utilities construct snake fences around all their interior structures as well. One utility in Texas is testing a different device, their own design. It's a snake sized electric fence and, so far, seems to be working well.
This recent design of an electric fence works well for raccoons, ground traveling squirrels, and snakes. Of course, the perfect answer is to get rid of the birds that are attracting the snakes, but realistically, that's not going to happen.

Raccoons cause more substation outages in some parts of the country than either birds or snakes. . Quite a few utilities use fence modifications like this, aluminum siding or something similar. Make sure it's installed vertically.

Squirrels...The truth is - it is extremely difficult to keep squirrels out of substations. If you're having a problem with squirrels, bite the bullet, and start covering and insulating everything in sight.

Rats and Mice will get into cabinets and control buildings and shred the insulation on wires. Some utilities use ultrsonic devices as deterrents with varying degrees of success. Some use poisons, but we don't recommend this method. Poisons are dangerous and dead rodents are health hazaeds.

Some general suggestions...animals are attrachted to substations for some reason. Do what you can to eliminate what might be the attraction. Trim trees, cut the grass, don't plant ornamental trees or shrubs that attract birds, get rid of trash piles, don't use fine gravel as groundcover.

We've given some suggestions, but we would really like for you out there to send us your experiences. We need to know what's worked for you, but especially, what hasn't. RECOMMENDATIONS:
If you would like some help in designing and implementing a comprehensive program for getting your animal-caused outages under control, drop us a line. Don't forget to check the Bulletin Board. If you don't see anything there to help, leave a questionand we'll post it. Be sure to check the Product Catalog to see what commercial products are available.
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