Versant Power says it has a plan to improve service and hopefully reduce the number of power outages hitting the Orono and Old Town areas, after thousands of customers saw three outages in less than a week.
On Aug. 13 — the first in a string of outages this week — more than 4,300 households in areas surrounding the University of Maine were without power after a piece of road machinery hit utility equipment and caused an outage.
Four days later, at least 5,000 customers in the area experienced another outage after a car crashed into a utility pole in Bradley on Monday morning. More than 4,700 households in Orono faced power outages again when another car crash interrupted service Tuesday morning.
The company is installing protection and coordination equipment to limit the frequency of power outages in the Orono area, spokesperson Judy Long said Tuesday.
The equipment may also help prevent widespread outages like the ones that have struck the area in the past week and limit the number of customers affected.
Long said the company is also coating utility lines with stronger covered wire to prevent heavy snow from pushing branches or trees onto power lines and causing outages — one of the leading causes of power outages.
The covered lines can withstand more damage from poor weather conditions and falling tree limbs, giving crews more time to find the problem and localize it to one area, she said.
The company is also maintaining their five-year tree trimming program around the state to minimize the possibility of branches and trees falling onto power lines.
Although there is no specific timeline for completion, Long said crews have been working on these improvement projects throughout the summer. The company has also looked into implementing similar equipment in other parts of the state such as in Holden and Dedham.
A string of outages from one area in less than one week is unusual — especially on days when the weather is generally good. “It really is a freak occurrence to have this many outages [in one area] on blue-sky days,” Longsaid.
“We wanted to let our customers know that we do realize it’s a problem,” she said. “We’re not just ignoring this.”
The company wants to remind the public to not touch a downed power line or drive over it and asked people operating vehicles or heavy equipment near power lines to use caution.