Xcel Energy transmission patrol crews are currently inspecting transmission lines via helicopter to ensure the electric system remains reliable through the rest of the summer cooling season. The inspections also meet federal regulatory compliance requirements to secure a reliable electric system.
The crews will identify potential trouble spots along these lines or structural issues that need to be addressed and repaired. They will also look for encroachment issues, such as buildings on or near right of ways, or trees growing too close to transmission lines.
They will be inspecting the entire system in Wisconsin beginning in areas north of Eau Claire to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and then they will work their way south to the La Crosse area, with the inspections expected to be complete by the middle of August.
Inspections are done either from the ground or air. Helicopter inspections gives the company an opportunity to take a closer look at the lines and see a fairly close, birds-eye view to identify potential issues to help ensure the reliability of the grid.
Helicopters will fly within 50 feet of transmission lines at varying speeds. At times the helicopter will hover near infrastructure to perform more detailed inspections. The exact flight schedule is dependent on weather and flying conditions.
Xcel Energy operates more than 7,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines in the Upper Midwest.