Transmission lines are our highest voltage lines. In Florida, Duke Energy has transmission lines that carry voltages as high as 500,000 volts, or 500 kilovolts (kV). These lines are comparable to the interstates of a road system, carrying electricity from power plants across great distances to the towns and communities that we serve. Each transmission line serves thousands of customers.
Federal regulations require that our highest voltage transmission lines remain reliable, and free from interference by trees and other vegetation, at all times. A vegetation-related outage on these lines could result in the utility being fined up to $1 million per day.
Crews use a combination of vegetation management methods to help ensure system reliability. In Florida, Duke Energy trims and/or removes trees in its rights of way to ensure it can deliver safe, reliable service to its customers.
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.
Transmission rights of way are generally maintained on three-year cycles.
We have a history of working with landowners and communities to allow compatible uses within the rights of way, such as farming, parks, golf courses and hiking trails. We will continue to work with landowners to minimize impacts in locations where we must remove trees, keeping in mind our mandated responsibility of safely providing affordable, reliable electricity for our customers.