It’s a perfect morning in Connecticut when more than 15,000 homeowners and businesses lose power. They will be in the dark for several hours while utility crews identify the cause and repair the damage. In this scenario, it doesn’t take long for the utility to discover the culprit is a squirrel that climbed into a major substation’s critical equipment and caused a short circuit. The blackout affects more than half the town’s customers and damages vital equipment. In addition, the repair is expensive and creates negative public relations for the utility. This is an event that occurs more frequently than one might realize—and an event that often can be avoided through a tried and true engineered solution.
According to the statistics in studies from Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), animal-caused outages can be attributed to at least $18 billion in lost economy each year, and, considering that many “unknown” outages are also animal caused, that number could be significantly higher. That price tag is causing many utility executives to appreciate what electricity’s inventor, Benjamin Franklin, realized many years ago—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
A product of choice for many of North America’s largest electric utility companies is Greenjacket, manufactured by Cantega Technologies and distributed in the U.S. through Salisbury by Honeywell. Greenjacket utilizes a technology that allows companies to customize covers for a complete fit over all risk points. There is no “one size fits all” approach that allows for gaps and risk points. In addition, Cantega Technologies has the ability to install the covers in an energized yard. The cost savings of avoiding forced and unforced outages is significant, as is the savings on equipment repair and replacement. This product has been so effective in preventing animal contact that several companies have adopted Greenjacket as the standard for their animal mitigation strategy.
Ken Tetzlaff, maintenance application technician for AltaLink Management, said, “AltaLink uses Greenjacket covers in our network of substations. The product helps us reduce and mitigate reliability risks associated with bird and animal-based outages. Greenjacket worked closely with us to develop a unique and custom-based solution for the different types of equipment located in each station where cover-up was required. Engineered Greenjacket covers are a precise fit and are easily removed and re-applied where access to connections or equipment is required. Based on the Greenjacket history of preventing outages, we have incorporated them as part of our engineering standards for cover-up in substations.”
Part of the Greenjacket product success has been the focus on meeting customer’s specific needs. Technicians for Cantega evaluate schematics and images of existing facilities to develop a budgetary estimate for a solution. They conduct a site assessment to determine risk points and use 3-D photogrammetry to obtain equipment dimensions. Cantega then delivers a site protection plan that includes a prioritized, itemized list of protective covers required to mitigate bird and animal-caused outages. Cantega then manufactures the product, can deliver it to the client, and can supervise the installation or install the product.
A Brief History
Cantega Technologies was founded in 2001 by a power lineman, Martin Niles, who knew firsthand there was a better way to build power system protection and improve reliability. Niles had 25 years in the field and witnessed the damage and disruption caused by bird and animal contact with electrical equipment. He recognized the value of customized fitting covers vs. the “one size fits all” approach, and he realized having a product that can be installed quickly in an energized environment added value to utilities. The Greenjacket engineered solution is the result of those observations. In Canada, Greenjacket is used by AltaLink, BC Hydro, Fortis, Hydro One, Hydro Quebec, SaskPower, Manitoba Hydro and other utilities. Customers such as Shell and Anadarko also have adopted the use of Greenjacket where the cost of an outage is measured in lost revenue and can amount to millions of dollars for a brief outage. In the U.S., Cantega recently partnered with Salisbury by Honeywell to distribute Greenjacket and now has projects in California, Colorado, Ohio and Wyoming.
“The key to preventing animal caused outages is a better fitting product. Gaps create shelter for smaller animals and bugs, which attract larger predators. Greenjacket works because it completely covers risk points and eliminates opportunities for animal nesting and contact. Significant cost savings are realized in outage related downtime, repairs and overtime labor costs that are a typical result of bird or animal contact with energized equipment,” Niles said.
The product offers further value because it can be installed on energized equipment. The company has developed hot stick tools to allow Greenjacket products to be installed “hot”—eliminating expensive and sometimes impossible-to-schedule outages where equipment must be protected.
As utilities attempt to harden their systems and improve reliability, more of them are recognizing the importance of effective animal risk mitigation programs. No utility wants to explain to customers and regulators that widespread outages and costly damages were caused by raccoons, snakes, squirrels, wild turkeys and birds. In addition, no utility wants the exposure of criticism and fines from regulators as a result of reliability issues. They believe the small investment to protect critical infrastructure is well worth it.