Hydro History Book
Butte, Mont. – July 23, 2021 – Late on Wednesday, July 21 about 2,250 Bozeman area customers lost power after a thunderstorm with strong winds rolled through the area. If the outage had occurred in a different time of the year, NorthWestern Energy personnel would have reenergized the line remotely to restore service quickly.
But this is fire season.
A lineman was sent out to patrol the line between Bozeman and the Four Corners area in Belgrade, looking for things such as tree branches in the power lines or for any downed power lines, situations that create a fire risk. Once he confirmed that the lines were clear and undamaged, services was restored for the customers at 12:42 a.m. July 22.
Patrolling before lines are reenergized is among the fire-season precautions employed by NorthWestern Energy. Project and maintenance work generally begins and finishes earlier in the day to minimize the time crews are in the field during the hottest hours when fire risk increases. NorthWestern Energy works closely with local agencies to determine those field hours.
NorthWestern Energy’s formal response team is prepared to work with wildfire management if fires are a threat to the electric or gas system, which could disrupt critical energy service.
“During wildfire season, attention is focused on fire prevention and working closely with local officials and fire commands to protect infrastructure to minimize service disruptions and maintain communication channels,” said NorthWestern Energy Vice President Curt Pohl. “But our fire mitigation work is a year-round effort.”
NorthWestern Energy conducts power line and equipment inspections, including aerial inspections in remote areas, throughout the year. Trees are trimmed and cleared along the 20,000 miles of overhead power lines in Montana. Investments are ongoing in the infrastructure such as power poles, power lines and substations to make the systems stronger and more resilient.
State of the art software is used to create a visual inventory of power lines and equipment, along with a history of the performance of each system segment. That data is used to make strategic investments in the system and to identify critical infrastructure during active wildfire fighting efforts.
“As summer continues and the weather gets hotter and drier, there are some common actions that we all can do to prevent wildfires and support those on the front line fighting fires,” said Pohl.
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About NorthWestern Energy (Nasdaq: NWE)
NorthWestern provides electricity and / or natural gas to approximately 743,000 customers in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. We have generated and distributed electricity in South Dakota and distributed natural gas in South Dakota and Nebraska since 1923 and have generated and distributed electricity and distributed natural gas in Montana since 2002. More information on NorthWestern is available on the company’s website at www.northwesternenergy.com.
Jo Dee Black