Hamilton’s trees will be studied to help reduce power outages

The results of an international tree survey, being partially conducted in Hamilton, Ohio, will determine some best practices when maintaining trees near power lines that will help reduce maintenance costs and the number of outages resulting from fallen trees. Pictured is a downed tree entangled in power lines at Liberty Avenue and North F Street in Hamilton after a May 3, 2022, storm. NICK GRAHAM/FILE

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The results of an international tree survey, being partially conducted in Hamilton, Ohio, will determine some best practices when maintaining trees near power lines that will help reduce maintenance costs and the number of outages resulting from fallen trees. Pictured is a downed tree entangled in power lines at Liberty Avenue and North F Street in Hamilton after a May 3, 2022, storm. NICK GRAHAM/FILE

Volunteers ― no experience necessary ― are welcome to assist in the international tree study.

The city of Hamilton hopes an international tree study in tree biomechanics will not only reduce power outages but save money for the city’s electric customers.

During the first week of August, volunteers are needed to assist with the research study. This will result in identifying trees that need to be trimmed and vegetation that needs to be managed around power transmission lines. This is an issue not just in Hamilton and southwest Ohio, but for everyday operations for utilities around the world.

Dr. Anand Persad’s, director of ACRT Services Inc. Division of Research Science and Innovation, and his team have studied tree biomechanics over the past three decades to better understand how trees grow and how changes in climate affect their growth. The results of the study are expected to show best practices of maintaining trees near powerlines, which in turn have the potential to save utilities and customers money.

“Managing urban forests for climate change is a complex process that requires a comprehensive understanding of the forest’s ecology,” Persad said.

The city of Hamilton already has few power outages compared to the national average of similar-sized electric utilities. According to the American Public Power Association, the average length of a citywide outage was 68 minutes in 2021, earning the city a Certificate of Excellence in Reliability, which recognizes the top 25% of nationally reported reliability metrics, like the average duration and frequency of service interruptions.

Though citywide outages lasted more than an hour, the average outage for an individual Hamilton resident was 52 minutes.

Similarly sized utilities across the country were almost three times higher than Hamilton, averaging 153 minutes per outage, according to the APPA.

For at least the next five years, Persad and his team will research the trees in Hamilton, and from Aug. 1 to 5. Researchers from around Ohio will collect an initial data set in Hamilton for the project. They’ll dig root samples, perform stress tests on tree branches, identify trees within the sample area, and other ecological research methods.

“We are excited to be able to be on the cutting edge with research like this,” said Hamilton Municipal Arborist Dave Bienemann. “These field trials may benefit utility and urban forestry planning across the globe.”

There will be other Ohio sites joining the study, as well as in California and Puerto Rico. Internationally, the study will be conducted in Trinidad, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

Volunteers are encouraged to participate in the project. No experience is needed, and volunteers are requested to work two-hour blocks of time. If anyone is interested, contact Bienemann at 513-785-7556 or dave.bieneman@hamilton-oh.gov by no later than Friday.

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