Frequently Asked Questions
These questions and answers are intended to address most situations, but are not meant to cover all circumstances encountered on transmission and distribution vegetation management work.
How can trees affect my power?
Trees can affect power in a number of different ways. Service reliability can be affected by trees at the precise location where a tree may contact a line, at other locations on that line or at other locations on the interconnected electric grid. Fallen trees can interrupt power to many customers. In a worst-case scenario, a tree can tear down the entire line and break the poles that hold the line in place.
Itís not necessary for a tree to tear down a line to disrupt power. Trees can seem a safe distance from the line, but limbs can still blow against the line and the line can sag and sway in high winds. When limbs come into contact with the line, protective equipment will generally de-energize the line. Electrical blinks and flickers may be experienced if intermittent, short duration contacts are made with the line. Interruptions can also be caused by high growing brush or vines. If you have concerns about trees or vines growing near power lines, please contact us at 800-700-8744. A customer service representative will be happy to assist you.
Are there safety issues surrounding trees and power lines?
In Florida, Duke Energy maintains around 30,000 miles of overhead transmission and distribution lines. Maintaining vegetation around these lines is essential to maintaining reliability and ensuring the safety of the customers we serve. Trees growing near power lines could potentially cause a fire, and could be an electrical hazard to the public. They can also cause safety hazards for our crews.
In addition, lines carrying a high electricity load can heat up and sag, potentially coming into contact with trees that previously appeared a safe distance from lines. As such, we must sometimes trim or remove trees that may not seem to be an immediate threat to the power line.
Trees and other vegetation are the leading cause of power outages in the Southeast. Fallen trees can not only interrupt power to customers, they can also, in some extreme cases, tear down the entire line and break the poles that hold the line in place. Downed lines pose a serious danger to the public. If you see a downed line, always assume it is energized and stay away. Never try to drive over a downed power line. If you see a downed line, contact Duke Energy's outage reporting line at 800-228-8485.
In Florida, Duke Energy is committed to minimizing outages and safety risks by maintaining trees and vegetation along its transmission and distribution rights of way.
My trees havenít caused any power outages. Why are you cutting or pruning them?
Proactive vegetation management has always been an important part of Duke Energy's commitment to maintaining reliable service in Florida. Our crews trim trees along most of our lines at regular intervals, regardless of their history of outages.
Are trees trimmed or removed for the installation of new electric lines?
When selecting and installing new electric line routes, we evaluate a number of factors that include impact to property owners, the community and the environment, as well as schedule, cost and regulatory requirements. Typically, in this part of the country, any route that is chosen involves a conflict with trees. We prune and cut down the necessary trees and vegetation in order to properly install poles and lines. The width of the right of way or easement, as well as the scope of vegetation management required, is dependent on the type and voltage of the line being constructed.
Will I be notified before a tree crew comes to cut trees in my yard?
When possible, Duke Energy will attempt to notify you prior to cutting trees in your yard. However, we may be unable to provide advance notification in some cases, due to the immediate need for the work. Notification practices vary depending on the type and voltage of the line. This generally involves a notification telephone call, letter, door hanger or in-person contact Ė or a combination of these methods Ė prior to work commencing. For each notification, a point of contact will also be provided should you have questions or concerns about the work being done. If our attempts to notify you are unsuccessful, work will proceed without further direct notification.
In Florida, does Duke Energy trim or remove trees other than those near power lines?
We are only involved with the maintenance and removal of trees and other vegetation that might endanger the safe and reliable operation of poles and lines for the delivery of electricity. These may include trees off the right of way that are damaged, diseased, dead/dying, otherwise unsafe, or that pose a risk to the facilities.
How does Duke Energy decide when to prune or is this just a random selection?
As part of our integrated vegetation management plan, trees and vegetation will typically be maintained at regular intervals based on a number of factors that include the type and voltage of the line, width of the right of way, and any federal, state and local requirements that govern vegetation management.
Maintenance cycles are carried out regardless of the outage history of a particular line. We do, however, work to identify vegetation that poses an immediate threat to system reliability and take steps to prevent vegetation-related outages.
Trimming trees and vegetation
How much will be cut from my trees?
Trimming practices vary based on the voltage and type of line, right of way width, type of tree being trimmed, the treeís proximity to the line, and any federal, state and local requirements that govern vegetation management.
Trees with trunks that are located close to the power line require much heavier pruning than trees located farther from the line. In some cases, a tree may even need to be removed to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the line.
When pruning operations are performed, our trimming experts will trim sufficient clearance, as allowed by our right of way and easement agreements, so that the tree should not interfere with the line before we return on our next routine maintenance cycle.
How do you trim yard trees? Does Duke Energy "round-over" and/or "shape" trees?
We do not "round" trees over because itís not good for the health of your trees. To maintain the health of your tree while establishing acceptable clearance between energized wires and tree branches, we generally use a technique called "directional pruning." This technique was developed by the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), approved by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI), and adopted by the pruning industry as its standard. It is endorsed and promoted by the National Arbor Day Foundation and the International Society of Arboriculture.
With directional pruning, entire limbs or portions of limbs growing toward the lines are removed back to the main branch or trunk. They are removed at a point where they would naturally shed if they died from natural causes. By doing this, future growth will be directed away from the wires, and rapidly growing, weakly attached sprouts will be minimized. Removing the branches at the point where they normally shed keeps the tree's natural defense system and other natural protection processes intact.
To provide adequate clearance and help maintain tree health, our trained tree crews evaluate each tree to determine the tree's structure and growth pattern. This assessment is used to decide which limbs should be removed to accomplish these goals.
Are there situations when you might prune a tree one time and then decide to remove it the next time through?
Yes. Trees are evaluated each time we conduct vegetation maintenance, and a tree that was pruned one time may be identified for removal during the next maintenance cycle. Trimming practices vary based on the voltage and type of line, right of way width, type of tree being trimmed and the treeís proximity to the line, as well as any federal, state and local requirements that govern vegetation management.
When pruning operations are performed, our trimming experts will trim sufficient clearance, as allowed by our right of way and easement agreements, so that the tree should not interfere with the line before we return on our next routine maintenance cycle. In some cases, the tree may need to be removed to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the line.
Why can't you just place these lines underground?
Placing existing lines underground can be a very complex process that involves extensive trenching, as well as installation of underground vaults and other equipment. Trees growing in or along the right of way have root systems that could be damaged by underground excavation and equipment, which could harm the tree and ultimately result in the tree needing to be removed. Underground installations are also typically more expensive to install and maintain than overhead lines.
While underground lines are protected from most interference from trees or limbs, they are still subject to faults. In our experience with underground distribution circuits, we have found that underground cables do deteriorate over time. And when a fault occurs, it is much more difficult to locate and fix. If a problem occurs in an underground transmission line, it could affect whole substations and thousands of customers for lengthy periods.
Are the tree trimmers trained and professional?
In Florida, Duke Energy ensures that all tree trimming crews are trained in proper techniques and comply with our approved vegetation management practice and safety policies. We also have certified arborists and specialists with degrees in forestry and biology on our staff. These professionals oversee all facets of our vegetation management programs.
Duke Energy uses trimming techniques developed by the National Arborist Association, approved by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI), and adopted by the pruning industry as its standard. It is endorsed and promoted by the National Arbor Day Foundation and the International Society of Arboriculture.
Why can't I maintain the trees myself?
Pruning trees around power lines should only be attempted by trained professionals. Serious injuries and even fatalities have occurred when untrained individuals do this work without the assistance of qualified professionals.
In Florida, Duke Energy maintains around 30,000 miles of overhead lines on its system. It would be impossible for us to monitor whether or not property owners maintain vegetation consistently and in accordance with federal rules and regulations, to preserve system reliability and safety.
Can a licensed commercial tree trimming firm get help from Duke Energy in trimming or removing trees near power lines?
We do not encourage any untrained person to remove trees adjacent to power lines or to do tree work around energized lines. In Florida, Duke Energy has representatives available that can make evaluations on a case-by-case basis. The Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) law states that an untrained person should not work within 10 feet of overhead energized distribution (and greater distances for transmission) lines. In general, it is not recommended that any individual should perform tree work adjacent to power lines if not trained in utility line clearance tree work.
Is there a charge for trimming trees on my property?
Tree trimming is a part of our responsibility to ensure safe, reliable electric service for our customers. The cost of managing the natural growth around power lines is a part of the rates approved by the utility commissions in Florida.
Is Duke Energy responsible for clean-up after trimming trees?
The majority of our pruning and cutting occurs during routine line maintenance operations. We will typically dispose of any small limbs and brush in landscaped settings. The larger pieces of wood are cut into manageable lengths for your use. In non-landscaped sites, pruned vegetation and wood is left in place. These materials will biodegrade into their natural components.
When storms cause trees or other vegetation to fall across power lines and cause outages, we cut the trees and brush so poles and lines can be replaced and re-energized. Disposal of any wood, limbs or debris resulting from this type of emergency operation is the responsibility of the property owner.
When is the best time to prune trees?
Most professionals recommend tree pruning in the dormant season (during the winter time when the trees are not growing). Most professionals also advise that if you are not severely pruning a tree, it can be pruned any time of year. Certified arborists advise that it is more important to make the proper cuts and follow sound arboricultural practices than to limit pruning to a certain time of year.
In Florida, Duke Energy is responsible for maintaining around 30,000 miles of overhead lines. Because of the volume of miles that must be trimmed annually, and our proactive trimming cycle schedule, Duke Energy must conduct tree-trimming year-round in order to complete our work and meet system reliability goals.
Who trims tree limbs that interfere with the light levels or pattern of light from streetlights?
Over the course of time, tree growth may begin to interfere with your desired light pattern. Itís your responsibility to maintain the growth of any trees interfering with the lighting pattern. During our routine circuit pruning cycle in Florida, Duke Energy will address any vegetation that may damage the actual light fixture or the conductors supplying power to the light.
I saw you trimming in my neighborhood, but you didnít trim the line that runs to my house. Why?
Maintenance of service lines that provide electricity from a utility pole directly to a home or business are generally the customerís responsibility. In Florida, Duke Energy contract crews will typically trim around an individual service line during routine maintenance on the connecting line if they identify vegetation that is in contact with the service line, or if vegetation is pushing the line horizontally or vertically out of place. Duke Energy will also come and de-energize a service line upon request, and at no cost, so that a customer or their contractor can safely trim vegetation around the line.
Duke Energy urges customers to take caution when working around these lines. Pruning trees around power lines should only be attempted by trained professionals. Serious injuries and even fatalities have occurred when untrained individuals do this work without the assistance of qualified professionals.
Do tree crews have free mulch available?
Wood chips and leaf mulch are produced when the branches of pruned trees are fed through a chipper. In Florida, this mulch can be delivered free to customers in the area where Duke Energy contractor tree crews are working. A truckload of mulch is equivalent to approximately three to four pick-up truck loads. If you see a tree crew working in your neighborhood and you would like a load of mulch, contact them for details.
When is it necessary to remove trees instead of pruning them away from the power lines?
The decision to remove a tree rather than trimming it is based on a number of factors such as the height and health of the tree, proximity of the tree to the line, the type and voltage of the line, and any right of way requirements associated with the line.
As the rated voltage of the line increases, so does the right of way width requirement. For smaller distribution lines, the right of way clearance may only be about 15 feet on either side of the line. For larger, single high-voltage transmission lines, the right of way total width may be as much as 180 feet or greater in multi-line corridors.
Certain varieties of lower-growing trees and vegetation may be permitted within the right of way, based on the location, mature height and growing habit of the plant. A list of compatible vegetation typically permitted in the right of way can be found here. Please note that the height of different cultivars for a given species may vary.
In general, Duke Energy does not recommend planting trees within the right of way or directly beneath a line. Even trees identified as compatible may be subject to removal if they pose a threat to the safe, reliable operation or access and maintenance of the line. Additionally, compatible trees mixed in with other non-compatible species or those located in non-landscaped, unmaintained areas may be subject to removal.
Please note that varieties of approved vegetation differ between transmission and distribution rights of way. If you are unsure of which type of right of way you are planting in, please contact Duke Energy or ask the representative assigned to your trimming location.
Will you pay me for the trees you cut?
No. The right to remove trees is covered under the easement purchased by or granted to Duke Energy (or its predecessors) from the original grantor.
Why are you cutting trees down now when you have always trimmed them before?
In Florida, Duke Energy has a mandate to maintain reliable service for our customers. For some of our higher voltage transmission lines, we may be fined up to $1 million per day for outages caused by vegetation.
The easements obtained by Duke Energy grants us the right to clear any tree that poses a threat to the safety of the public and the reliable operation of the line. Trees that exceed mature height requirements for the right of way, are dead, diseased or damaged, or leaning toward the conductors, are considered "danger trees." Danger trees can be located inside or outside of the Duke Energy right of way. We may also contact the customer to discuss the removal of trees to eliminate reliability issues due to re-growth during the vegetation maintenance cycle period.
In addition, when lines are carrying a high electricity load, they can heat up, expand and sag, potentially coming into contact with trees that previously appeared a safe distance from the lines. Trees and vegetation that were previously pruned or trimmed might not have posed enough of a risk to warrant removal. Now these same trees pose a potential risk and need to be removed.
Trees and vegetation that may interfere with the line before we return on our next routine maintenance cycle may also be subject to removal.
Why are you cutting down my tree(s) and not my neighbors' trees?
There are a variety of factors that determine whether or not a tree must be trimmed or removed.
The methods used and scope of work are determined by a number of factors, including:
- Voltage of the line being trimmed
- Width and location of the right of way
- Type, mature height and compatibility of vegetation in and around the right of way
- Federal, state and local requirements that govern vegetation management
- Proximity to environmentally sensitive areas
- Type of construction (transmission lines only).
If a tree is inside a transmission line right of way and is taller than 12 feet, the tree will be evaluated for removal. Trees and vegetation along distribution lines can often be trimmed rather than removed. If, however, the vegetation poses a threat to the line that cannot be resolved by trimming, or if the vegetation may interfere with the line before we return on our next routine maintenance cycle, it may be subject to removal.
What gives Duke Energy the right to cut my trees some of which may not even be within the right-of-way strip?
Before a power line is built, Duke Energy acquires easements from property owners along the selected route. The easements obtained by Duke Energy grant it the right to clear any tree that poses a threat to the safety of the public and the reliable operation of the line. Trees that exceed mature height requirements for the right of way, are dead/dying, diseased or damaged, leaning toward the conductors, or are otherwise unsafe or pose a risk to the facilities are considered "danger trees.Ē Danger trees can be located inside or outside of the Duke Energy right of way.
Will you cut the wood into fireplace length?
On most rights of way, Duke Energy does not cut wood into firewood length. In an improved area or yard where necessary to facilitate disposal, the contract tree crew may cut the wood into shorter lengths, with some sections down to firewood length.
Will you grind the stump?
In Florida, Duke Energy does not remove stumps. The stump will be cut as low as feasible with a chainsaw and will rot away over time.
Can I replace a tree that has been cut down?
Yes, if the vegetation is compatible with our right of way policies. View our Before You Plant page for suggested trees and shrubs that are generally compatible with our lines and pad-mounted transformers. Please note that compatible trees differ by line type and voltage. If you are unsure whether you are planting near a transmission or distribution line, please contact your designated Duke Energy right-of-way representative, or call our customer service center at 800-700-8744.
Herbicides and growth regulators
How do you decide when to use herbicides?
In Florida, Duke Energy uses herbicides to control undesirable vegetation along the ROW floor. Herbicide treatments are performed on vegetation when growth is immature, such as after the right of way has been mowed and the root systems of the brush have had a chance to re-sprout. Follow-up treatments are applied in order to control any of the brush that might have been missed on the initial treatment, or may have reseeded through natural succession before the next herbicide cycle.
This technique allows compatible vegetation to effectively grow in the right of way. By encouraging this compatible vegetation, Duke Energy may actually decrease the extent of vegetation removal required in future years.
Herbicide treatments are selectively applied across the width of the rights of way. Tree pruning occurs on trees along the sides of rights of way. Any mature trees found within the rights of way are also either removed or pruned.
What types of herbicides does Duke Energy use in Florida?
In Florida, the herbicides used by Duke Energy are some of the same products you may use to control vegetation around your home. Trained and professional maintenance crews use backpack sprayers to selectively apply the product to manage plant growth in a safe and environmentally-friendly manner. In Florida, all products used by Duke Energy are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and appropriate state agencies.
In Florida, Duke Energy is nationally recognized for its progressive tree care practices with the distinctive Tree Line USA designation from The National Arbor Day Foundation.
More information on the herbicides used to spray brush in Florida, and links to the labels and Manufacturing Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each herbicide, are available on our Managing With Herbicides page.
What if I have questions or concerns about the use of herbicides on my property?
Herbicide use is a standard practice used by electric utilities and others, including agricultural and landscape management companies, state departments of transportation, railroads, forest services, the military, municipalities, golf courses, airports, schools and universities, and property owners.
Organic farmers, or other customers with concerns, can contact Duke Energy toll-free at 800-700-8744 to speak with a local tree coordinator.
What are tree growth regulators and when are they used?
Tree growth regulators are chemical compounds that effectively shorten the amount of limb growth that would otherwise be produced by an untreated tree. The results of treatment typically produce a denser and darker green tree, as the same number of branches and leaves are being produced by the tree, but in a more compact space.
Tree growth regulators are often applied after trimming on the tree has been completed. They can be an effective tool to help keep trees away from distribution power lines and reduce the need for future pruning. The use of tree growth regulators is typically reserved for fast-growing trees that are located directly under the distribution wires and require frequent pruning.
The most common methods for applying tree growth regulators involve applying the compound to the soil near the roots or directly into the tree itself. The effect of the treatment will generally last between two and five years.
Tree growth regulators are used to maintain trees along lower-voltage distribution power lines only.
What types of trees and/or plants may be planted near transformers and power lines?
To ensure the continued delivery of safe and reliable power, Duke Energy does not recommend planting trees within the high-voltage transmission line rights of way. If you intend to plant in the vicinity of the transmission right of way, please consult the Transmission Use Guidelines. To determine the easement width, please refer to your property documents or contact Duke Energy in Florida. Ensuring our right of way is clear of obstructions enhances our ability to safely and efficiently maintain our equipment and to restore power following severe storms.
In Florida, Duke Energy typically allows trees to be planted near our lower-voltage distribution lines, but certain precautions must be taken when choosing a tree.
Trees come in all shapes and sizes, and there are many trees that can be planted under or near power lines that will not result in interference. Selecting the proper tree can eliminate or reduce the need for pruning.
View our Before You Plant page for suggested trees and shrubs that are generally compatible with our lines and pad-mounted transformers. Please note that compatible trees differ by line type and voltage. If you are unsure whether you are planting near a transmission or distribution line, please contact your designated Duke Energy right-of-way representative, or call our customer service center at 800-700-8744.
When should I contact Duke Energy about working around power lines (landscaping, house painting, etc.)?
Florida law requires anyone planning to dig in any easement, right of way or permitted use area to call Sunshine State One Call by dialing 811 at least two full business days before beginning work. Through this free service, the state will have the underground utilities (cable, phone, electric, etc.) marked before the work begins. This helps customers avoid inadvertently coming into contact with an underground utility Ė keeping those performing the work safe while limiting the likelihood of service disruptions due to digging.
Contractors are required to call in every job that involves digging or disturbing the earth's surface. Home owners are encouraged to call before planting trees or other "do-it-yourself" projects involving digging. Before calling, homeowners and contractors should outline the excavation area with white paint so locators can easily tell where the digging is going to occur.
Contacting Duke Energy
Who can I contact for more information?
In addition to information available on our website, Florida customers who have questions or concerns about right-of-way or vegetation management can contact a Duke Energy customer service representative by calling 800-700-8744. Our customer service representatives can provide general information on vegetation and right-of-way issues and can connect customers to a forester or right-of-way expert, if needed.
Who can I appeal to - above the forester - about this decision to cut my trees?
If you have questions about your rights concerning the transmission easement, the forester might involve a Duke Energy land agent or legal counsel to provide answers.