Squirrels, raccoons and other curious animals will have a tougher time getting into Consumers Energy substations and disrupting power thanks to enhanced control measures across the state. The new barriers promote animal safety and customer reliability and help the company deliver on its Promise to provide the energy customers need whenever they need it.
Consumers Energy owns and operates more than 1,200 substations, which help serve 1.8 million customers by decreasing electric voltage for distribution to homes and businesses across Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The electrical wires leading to and from a substation, along with the warmth and vibration given off by the substation’s equipment are often attractive to wildlife, especially squirrels and raccoons.
Substations are knocked out of service when an animal enters the substation and contacts energized equipment while also touching the ground or grounded electrical equipment. The animal is electrocuted and a resulting electrical “fault” disrupts power either momentarily or for longer periods, depending on the situation.
From January 2011 through Sept. 30 of this year, more than 30 percent of all substation outages were caused by wildlife, one of the largest known causes of substation outages. When partial or complete substation outages occur, hundreds or thousands of customers can lose power. A typical substation outage caused by an animal can last from two to three hours.
The new standard addresses two main areas: Improving barriers around the substation and reducing the opportunity for animals to contact energized equipment in the substations.
Ten to 15 new substations are built each year, with another 10 to 20 upgraded or modified. The new animal control standards have been applied to several existing substations during 2013.
Consumers Energy spends about $150 million a year to upgrade its electric distribution system, including substation work. These investments and others over the last five years have resulted in a 20 percent improvement in electric reliability.