Shifting to Winter Work

lineman on power pole working in the snowWinter is well upon us, and it is the season our line crews shift their daily work tasks to work within the bounds of Mother Nature.

The warmer months are typically busy with new services, underground cable replacements, and major upgrades. Northern Lights, Inc. (NLI) had a busy, warmer weather construction season in 2020 and installed approximately 450 new services throughout our service territory, which is more than we have done in a single year for the past 10 years.

NLI has slowed down on new services going into the colder months, and we put our underground cable plows away for the season to focus on overhead line projects.

It may be more challenging to perform work in the winter because of the snow, ice, and frozen ground. We are still able to use our digger derricks and other equipment to dig holes for poles. You may often see our crews replacing poles during the snowy and cold months. Crews also will replace overhead wire strung between poles in the winter.

NLI crews also typically work on pole-mounted switches, reclosers, and other aerial equipment because those only require access to the pole they are mounted on.

Access can be challenging in some locations in the winter, but NLI has special snow equipment in our fleet to get us to our lines during heavy snow cover. This same equipment is used for outage response in the winter.

Tree trimming continues in the winter. This is a year-round task with the abundance of trees that grow in our region. The ground-clearing and mowing crews call it quits for the season once the snow arrives.

One other thing we do in the winter is begin preparing for summer and fall underground cable replacement projects. NLI engineering technicians work with NLI line crews and management to prioritize, plan, permit and design cable replacement projects for the upcoming warm weather. NLI also continues to receive new service applications and prepares to have them ready for the construction season.

NLI continues to maintain and keep your member-owned electrical system operating in all seasons, it just might require a few more layers of clothing and some careful patience navigating the snowy terrain.

Kristin MettkeNorthern Lights Engineering & Operations Manager Kristin Mettke is an electrical engineer and has worked in the electric utility industry most of her career.