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Protecting Substations Against Animal Invaders

By Phill Feltham

A closer look at animal-caused outages at substations

BY BILL REICHARD, TransGard Systems

Every year, squirrels, raccoons, snakes, and other climbing animals cause substation outages across North America. According to a 2010 University of Minnesota study, the resulting estimated cost to electric utilities is between $15 million and $18 million per year. However, when commercial entities and consumer frustration are taken into consideration, the overall cost of these outages to electric utilities can cost the U.S. economy between $80 billion and $188 billion per year.

Utilities are recognizing that while the costs to perform actual substation repairs are significant, the cost to repair a reputation is much higher—and they are taking steps to install measures to keep climbing animals at bay.

WHY SUBSTATIONS ATTRACT ANIMALS Substations are a source of heat, shelter, protection, and food for a variety of animal species, which explains why the aforementioned animals are so persistent in attempting to enter them. The problem occurs when an animal comes into contact with both an energized component, such as a transformer, and a grounded piece of equipment simultaneously. When that happens, the animal completes the circuit, causing major damage. Often, the intruding animal burns out circuit breakers and destroys other costly equipment.

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