Keeping Pest Birds Off Electrical Substations

Birds are number one in causing more power system outages than any other animal. In addition to directly causing outages by wingtip contacts or nesting activities, they are indirectly responsible for many other animal-caused outages.

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By Fran Prisco

Birds are number one in causing more power system outages than any other animal. In addition to directly causing outages by wingtip contacts or nesting activities, they are indirectly responsible for many other animal-caused outages. Birds have been a problem since the first power systems were built, causing many utility departments to seek expert help in deterring these pest birds. Utilities tend to repair or replace damaged equipment with little or no idea of why the birds were there in the first place or what the probability of a re-occurrence might be. So many utilities have turned to experts in the business of bird control and bird control products, such as Bird-B-Gone, Inc. Bird-B-Gone, Inc. not only manufactures products, but also will recommend an entire system or bird control program.

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Unfortunately, by choosing to call a substation home, birds risk injury to themselves and others. Contact or “bridging” of energized equipment can cause system outages and possible equipment damage. These outages can be costly to the utility companies as well as their customers. The utility companies have to repair or replace costly equipment ranging from $500 to more than $140,000 per outage. The costs to customers can be measured in lost sales, damage to perishables, lost time and even property damage. Not only are “Bird Strikes” an issue, but also so is the accumulation of bird feces on substation equipment and structures. Bird feces are very acidic and can be corrosive to building materials and equipment. In certain conditions, the bird feces can be conductive and cause system outages. It is costly to the utility companies to constantly clean and repair the damage caused by build-ups of bird feces. It is often necessary to take systems off line for cleaning and repair.

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Similar to tree tops, electrical substations can provide nesting places that make the birds want to take up home. Birds such as Red-tailed Hawks, pigeons, sparrows, flickers and starlings will inhabit large stations. Bruce Donoho, owner of Bird-B-Gone, Inc. says, “Bird related outages are more common and widespread than generally believed. It is often necessary to use more than one product to deter pest birds from substations and utility poles. We often put together an integrated bird control system for utility companies. Often several of our products are used such as Bird Spikes, Sound Deterrents and Bird Deterrent Mist”.

When pest birds are landing on surfaces such as the cross arms of power poles, substations and other flat surfaces, the Plastic Bird Spikes from Bird-B-Gone, Inc. are an economical solution. The spikes are non-conductive, easy to install, long lasting U.V. protected and offer a 5-year guarantee. The bird spikes make it so that the birds cannot land. Donoho says, “Our plastic bird spikes have been used successfully all over the United States and the world to keep birds from landing on utility poles and inadvertently causing outages. They are the ideal product to use on rural utility poles because there is virtually no maintenance once the spikes are installed.”

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Protecting substations from pest birds can be a little more complicated. More than one product may be required to deter the birds from the area. This is known as an Integrated Bird Control System. “We have found that using our Sound Deterrent and Misting Units seem to be the best integrated bird control system for substations or other outdoor areas”, says Donoho. The Bird Chase Supersonic from Bird-B-Gone, Inc. plays distress and predator calls of over 22 species of birds. The calls play for about 2 minutes with a 10-minute break, this way the birds do not become used to any one sound. The birds hear the distress calls or predator calls and will go away to an area that is preserved as safer. The Bird-B-Gone Mist misting units use a food-grade, non-lethal aerosol fog formulation of methyl anthranilate that is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to deter pest birds as they fly. The mist is an irritant to the birds and reduces the numbers dramatically from the first “mist”. The Bird-B-Gone Mist System is made up of an easy to use control center and as many remote spray units as are needed to cover the effected area. The control center can control up to 32 spray units or cover about a one square mile area. When the birds fly into a “misted” area they are irritated and will go away to another area. The electrical and chemical tests conducted by PG&E in Northern California demonstrated that multiple applications did not jeopardize the integrity of equipment.

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Donoho says, “With a solid program in place, pest bird issues can be solved quickly and effectively. Bird-B-Gone also has a whole network of Authorized Installers that can assess your pest bird problems and create and install a system for you.”

About the Author:
Fran Prisco has been in the bird control industry for over eight years now. She is involved with product development, sales and service. She enjoys running, biking, golf and most things outdoors.

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