High Voltage Transmission Power Lines and Orchards

Clearances Requirements for Orchards

On August 14, 2003, large portions of the Midwest and Northeast regions of the United States, as well as Ontario, Canada, experienced a massive electrical blackout lasting up to four days in some areas. Fifty million people were affected along with major disruptions to critical public and private services, communications, transportation water systems and industry. It was determined that a tree had come into contact with transmission lines and was a significant contributing factor to the outage.

As a result of the blackout, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered the development of mandatory and enforceable standards to prevent recurrence. On March 15, 2007, the FERC approved 83 standards, marking official departure from reliance on the industry's voluntary compliance with reliability standards and the transition to mandatory standards under the FERC's oversight.

FAC 003-1 of the new FERC standards requires investor-owned utilities like PG&E to have a formal Vegetation Management Program. PG&E’s Vegetation Management Program complies fully with the FAC 003-1.

Maintaining required clearances at all times depends upon several factors:

  • Height of the electrical conductor
  • Length of the span between towers/poles
  • Voltage levels
  • Maximum sag of the conductor under emergency loading conditions
  • Sway due to wind—trees and power lines
  • Type of tree and maximum tree height
  • Annual tree growth after pruning
Tower to Tower Height Zones for Orchards

Walnut and Almond Tree Removal Incentive Program

PG&E recognizes that our need to obtain the necessary tree-to-conductor clearance through pruning of the walnut and almond trees can significantly reduce nut production. As an option for the grower, PG&E is offering a financial incentive to remove the trees in consideration for modifying the existing easement language. The modification does not alter the geography of the easement but only incorporates language that limits what can be replanted such as row crops, vines, trees that reach a mature height no higher than 10 feet, and manually-harvested fruit trees that are maintained no higher than 15 feet.

In general, Incentive Payments are based on two factors:

  1. The number of trees removed within the easement
  2. The equivalent acreage of the trees removed

The Removal Program is funded annually and participation is on a first-come, first-served basis. Owners of producing Walnut and Almond orchards, with trees planted under or adjacent to certain types of transmission lines, may qualify. To find out if you qualify, or would like more information, please contact Robert Fratini at (916) 781-3110.

Be Safe around Power Lines!

Safe behavior when operating equipment and working in fields is critical when power lines share space with orchards, workers and equipment. Serious accidents from workers and equipment making contact with electrical wires can be easily avoided. PG&E wants farm and ranch workers to avoid electric hazards by keeping basic safety rules in mind:

  • LOOK UP! Always look up for overhead power lines before beginning any activity.
  • Follow the 10-foot rule. Keep everything—you, the tools and materials you are handling and the equipment you are operating—as far away as possible from all power lines and never come closer than 10 feet. Any contact with wires by branches, pipe or equipment can be fatal.
  • Call before you dig. Always locate underground facilities such as electricity, gas, water, sewer or telecommunications before digging the ground. When you dig, you run the risk of breaking a utility line. Have your local utility locator service mark underground utility lines before you dig. more>
  • Irrigate with care. Do not spray water on power lines, equipment or structures. Not only can it damage equipment and short circuit the electrical system, a stream of water hitting a power line can create a path for electricity.
  • Use caution when moving equipment near facilities. Never stand an irrigation pipe on end near a power line. Always lower grain augers and other crop handling and tillage equipment before moving them anywhere near power lines. Never store materials directly underneath or adjacent to power lines. Beware of hooking guy wires when moving equipment.

Even if you don’t bring a structure or wire down, you might have weakened the structure or created slack in the line. If a structure or wire comes down, call PG&E at 1-800- PGE-5000, and stay away from a downed equipment until help arrives.