Aerial saw to trim tree branches to reduce power outages

FirstEnergy Corporation plans to use a helicopter with an aerial saw to trim tree branches near power lines in several counties across southwestern Pennsylvania.

During a media event, the power company explained how the machine works.

Ten blades, each 24 inches in diameter, hang from a metal boom under the the helicopter. From the bottom of the helicopter, the saw is 125 feet long.  Carbide tip blades on each saw rotate while the helicopter is flying, trimming tree branches that are growing close to power lines.

The tree limbs fall straight down and are picked up from roadways, kept yards, streams and agricultural areas.

Ground crews help monitor the proximity to homes, roads and people. The aerial saw must be outside of 160 feet from a home while a ground crew is present or 200 feet away from a building without a ground crew.

FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Meyers told WTAE the aerial saw performs a job in one hour that would take ground crews three days to complete.

He said fallen tree branches were behind one in three storm-related power outages in 2012, but the use of aerial saws had cut that to one in five by 2015.

Property owners will be notified by FirstEnergy employees before any work is to be completed.

West Penn Power, which is owned by FirstEnergy, will be done in the following counties and communities in the coming months:

  • Allegheny County (ground trimming): Bethel Park, Elizabeth Township, Millerstown, Peters Township, Upper St. Clair, Cheswick, Springdale, Natrona Heights
  • Armstrong County (aerial saw): Communities not listed
  • Butler County (aerial saw): Butler, Forestville, Prospect, Unionville, Nixon
  • Beaver County (aerial saw): Communities not listed
  • Fayette County (ground trimming): Arensburg, East Millsboro, Edenborn, Grays Landing, Markleysburg, Perryopolis
  • Washington County (ground trimming): Canonsburg, McGovern, Claysville, Washington
  • Westmoreland County (ground trimming): Rillton, Delmont, Hempfield Township, Manor, New Stanton, Darlington, Laughlintown, Mountain View, Derry, New Kensington, Scottdale, Bridgeport

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