Planting the Right Tree in the Right Place Helps Avoid Power Outages and Reduce Energy Costs

Jun 01, 2010, 16:01 ET from DTE Energy

DETROIT, June 1 /PRNewswire/ -- As the tree planting and landscaping season gets under way, DTE Energy subsidiary Detroit Edison is encouraging customers to plant trees that will not grow into and interfere with power lines and underground transformers.  Planting the right trees or shrubs in the right spot may prevent the need for trimming or possible removal in the future. Planting in the proper location also may help reduce the possibility of storm-related power outages.

"Detroit Edison each year trims thousands of trees to reduce the potential for power outages and to help ensure safe and reliable electrical service.  Our customers can help prevent tree-related power outages as well, by planting trees where they won't eventually grow into power lines or by planting varieties that don't reach power-line height," said Vince Dow, DTE Energy vice president of Distribution Operations.

Tree interference is responsible for about two-thirds of the power outages that occur during storms. Storm-related outages can happen when high winds, rain and lightning damage trees and branches, causing them to fall into power lines.  

"Tree purchases and landscaping are long-term investments," Dow said.  "Planning for overhead and underground utility clearances can help customers protect their investments for years to come."

Planting to save energy

Because trees branch out, as well as up, the shape and spread of the tree needs to be considered.  A local nursery can provide information on selecting the best tree to fit a yard.  

In many newer subdivisions and commercial areas, power lines may be located underground. Transformer cabinets for underground utilities require periodic maintenance.  An eight-foot clearance is required from the front of the transformer and a two-foot clearance is needed around the back and sides.  Customers should keep these distances in mind when planning landscaping.  Trees and bushes that obstruct the transformer cabinets will be removed if necessary to perform maintenance.

Well-planned landscaping and tree planting can help reduce home energy costs. Place trees that lose their leaves in the fall on the south and west sides of the house to provide shade, which may lower air conditioning costs.  Evergreen trees planted on the north and west sides protect against winter winds, which can help reduce heating costs.

For more information about planting the right tree in the right place for appropriate utility clearance and energy savings, including a detailed listing of trees suitable for Southeastern Michigan, visit and search for "tree planting guide."

Remove dead or dying ash trees

Dead and dying ash trees are a widespread problem due to the emerald ash borer, an insect that has invaded ash trees in several states. As a result of this infestation, ash trees, which may grow to heights of 60 feet, have become structurally unstable and may fall at any time, especially during a storm.

Because Detroit Edison is seeing more and more incidents in which ash trees are falling and damaging power lines, the company is encouraging people to remove these trees from their property.  Although there is an expense involved with the tree removal, the potential for injury or death and damage to homes, vehicles or property is far worse.

Locating underground lines before planting

DTE Energy also reminds customers planning a landscaping project to avoid digging accidents by calling MISS DIG to locate underground utility lines.  MISS DIG is a statewide, one-call center for construction safety and utility damage prevention.  Customers can reach MISS DIG toll-free by calling 811 or (800) 482-7171.  MISS DIG will contact the local utilities where the work is to be performed.  Within three days, the utilities will use staking flags and/or paint to mark the approximate location of underground gas, electric, telephone, water, sewer and storm lines and drains.

"Digging accidents that damage utility lines can cause service disruptions, financial penalties, injury and even death," said Dow.  "Making one quick toll-free call to MISS DIG is an easy way to prevent serious problems."