La Plata Electric Association has begun a long-term project to install electric fencing around the transformers in its substations to keep animals from causing power outages.
Power outages caused by animals are fairly common, said Operations Manager Justin Talbot. When temperatures drop, small animals such as raccoons and squirrels are attracted to the transformer’s heat.
“They’ll get up there and get warm, and then they start horsing around and get between two wires and knock our substation out of power,” he said.
In 2014, a raccoon caused a power outage for 450 homes south of Durango, and the raccoon lost its life. Albeit a different situation, last month a crow was blamed for a power outage affecting 6,500 customers. The fate of the crow was not known.
The fencing is made of a mesh-like netting and will be buried into the ground, surrounding the transformer. If animals touch it, the fence delivers a non-lethal shock to keep them from damaging the transformer or injuring themselves.
LPEA plans to install the fencing at all of its substations, but currently, it is installed at the Westside, Falfa and Piedra substations.
All of the required equipment costs about $10,000 per substation, Talbot said.
Transformers within substations convert incoming electricity into a lower voltage to be sent to customers.