The Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC remains committed to improving the infrastructure in its system and is on pace to complete more than 30 miles of new line construction in 2020.
The co-op has completed 17 miles of line through the first seven months of 2020, and has another 14 under construction, with 10 of those 14 miles well on the way toward completion. Construction has taken place throughout the UDWI service territory, with a focus on areas with the most-aged lines that often contribute to outages.
“This year we set a goal of 34 miles of new line,” said UDWI Director of Operations Shane Smith. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to slightly amend that goal, we are still on pace for a record-breaking year.”
The co-op has more than 2,000 miles of line with approximately 50 percent that must be repaired or replaced. Near and long-term construction plans are primarily focused on the 1,070 miles of copper lines that are over 60 years old in some areas of the UDWI service territory. Around 350 miles of aluminum wire have also been identified for future upgrades or replacement.
Last year, UDWI completed a record year for line replacement and construction, replacing nearly 28 miles of the aging infrastructure –more than double the amount of line replacement completed during any previous year in recent history.
In addition, Hoosier Heritage Management (HHM) has cleared trees and brush from over 30 miles of right-of-way and sprayed overgrown vegetation on an additional 22 miles. During high winds and storms, falling vegetation directly accounted for 42 percent of UDWI’s outages in 2019, with another 19 percent of outages suspected to be caused by vegetation. The co-op is actively working through the areas with the most vegetation-caused outages first. The long-term goal is to bring the system up to the industry standard of a “seven-year trim cycle” that has not ever been in place at UDWI.
“During the past several decades, many needed upgrades and replacements weren’t always completed as quickly as they should have been,” said UDWI CEO Doug Childs. “UDWI is now faced with an aging system in need of many miles of line replacements and we must also increase our commitment to tree trimming and vegetation management. UDWI is addressing these challenges and for the past two years improving our system’s infrastructure has been a driving force for the UDWI board, management, and staff; safe and reliable power for our members is our top priority.”