CenterPoint takes steps to prevent power outages

June 28, 2011 3:58:28 PM PDT
CenterPoint Energy's latest means of keeping its power lines clean is using a helicopter to spray the lines. It's a risky job, and it's all because of the lack of rain.

The goal here is to prevent widespread power outages like we saw in parts of our area just two months ago.

The conditions that crippled power to Texas City refineries have now moved inland and the cleaning of power lines is becoming a near-daily operation.

Above west Galveston Tuesday were a helicopter, a power washer and a trained CenterPoint worker blasting salt from transmission lines and insulators from the air. In a normal year, these aerial cleaning operations would be rare. Now it's becoming common.

"We're certainly used to delivering electricity in the heat of the summer, but it is being compounded now by this drought. We've never to this extent seen a drought for this long, and that is causing issued with reliability in spotty areas," said Alicia Dixon, CenterPoint Energy spokesperson.

In April, several Texas City refineries lost power and production when the transmission lines tripped a circuit. The lines and power belong to Texas New Mexico Power. It resulted in burning flare stacks and air quality issues. The cause was sediment buildup on insulators.

CenterPoint has cleaned its Galveston high-rise transmission lines three times this spring, and on the ground thousands more have been sprayed. The lines supply power to industry, business and homes, and crews are working six days a week to try to get in front of the problem.

"We can't turn our back on it," said Dixon. "Basically, we've kind of dubbed it, especially along the coast, 'Salt Wars.' We just can't stop washing because it continues to be a problem."

The crews will be moving along 146, going up and down cleaning all of those towers this week.

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