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The Five Worst Substation Outages of 2015

Squirrels, raccoons, snakes … How do such small animals continue to cause such huge (and costly) outages at substations, year in and year out?

For the most part, it’s a lack of prevention. TransGard Systems, which has installed patented fencing at more than 2,500 substations, continuously tracks outages caused by animals. The 2015 Worst Substation Outages list includes dangerous, expensive events that underscore the importance of a sound strategy for deterring animal incursions:

1. Squirrel power outage A substation disruption on the West Coast cut power to more than 40,000 customers. The cause: a squirrel making contact with sensitive substation elements.

2. Outage, then sewage spill A raccoon caused a power outage at a St. Augustine (FL) utility station that led to a sewage backup. The outage ultimately resulted in 60,000 gallons of untreated sewage flowing into the San Sebastian River.

3. Classes cancelled A squirrel short-circuited a substation, causing a massive power outage in Richmond, Virginia. The event threw sections of Richmond into darkness, disabling traffic signals at several major intersections, closing businesses and schools – including Virginia Commonwealth University – for most of the day.

4. Delay of game A squirrel knocked out power to part of the west side of Helena, Montana, causing a delay in the start of the football game between Carroll College and Montana State University-Northern. More than 3,500 customers, a shopping center and several key traffic signals were reported without power for hours.

5. Raccoon darkens Pennsylvania town More than 5,400 residents of Hanover were without power when a raccoon knocked out power at a substation. The town square, local newspaper and other businesses were affected for several hours. The good news: the utility subsequently installed a TransGard fence at the substation, providing protection against future outages.

These outages represent a small fraction of the outages, many unreported, at U.S. substations.