FirstEnergy turns to helicopters for tree trimming


FirstEnergy has turned to the skies for help with trimming back the forests that encroach upon its thousands of miles of high-voltage transmission lines.

The company has contracts with three specialty tree service companies that use helicopters equipped with powerful aerial saws to trim back trees that push  into the right-of-way corridors.

The choppers are able to trim about 1,000 miles of corridor annually. Ground crews must still inspect the corridors, and when necessary use chain saws to remove trees the traditional way. The aerial trimming is reserved for transmission lines and not used on local distribution lines carrying power to homes and businesses.

Rotor Blade, a South Carolina-based company, is trimming the corridor this week under FirstEnergy’s 345,000-volt transmission line from the coal-fired Sammis power plant on the Ohio River to a large substation near Doylestown, just south of Akron.

FirstEnergy estimates the aerial trimming saves between 15 percent and 20 percent compared to traditional methods. Also, the cuts are cleaner.

In addition, the company believes the helicopters are more environmentally friendly because the aircraft can fly over sensitive areas in place of heavy trucks.

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