Trees and Power Lines

transmission tower and power lines in a right of way with trees on each side

We are fortunate to live in a picturesque part of the country with rolling hills, rugged mountains and lots of trees.

Trees are a valuable and beautiful asset that complement our landscape and provide food and shelter to birds and other wildlife. Depending on the type of trees and where they are planted, they also shade our homes from the hot sun, block blustery winds and reduce our energy needs during extreme temperatures.

However, when trees are planted without regard to their surroundings, or are not properly maintained, they can create serious issues that grow worse each year. They can cause property damage, create safety hazards, and disrupt utility service.

Safety and Reliability

At LG&E and KU, we strive to provide you with safe, reliable service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. One of the most common – and critical – ways we do that is by clearing trees and other vegetation that has grown too close to overhead power lines. This is referred to as right-of-way clearing or vegetation management.

A large number of the service interruptions that occur on our system are caused by trees, tree limbs or other vegetation that grew too close to overhead power lines.

Clearing trees, limbs and brush away from overhead power lines:

  • helps create a safer environment for everyone
  • maintains the reliable electric service you expect and deserve
  • allows our crews to detect and repair issues that impact service

We conduct right-of-way clearing throughout our service area on a consistent and planned cycle.

Transmission vs. Distribution

Transmission and distribution lines are vital to the electric grid. Simply put, these power lines incorporate different voltages of power as it is transmitted from generating stations to substations and ultimately to customers.

Transmission

Transmission lines can be compared to interstate highways as they carry electricity across great distances from generating stations to primary substations. Transmission lines are installed on large structures, and the company’s transmission system consists of 69,000 volt through 500,000 volt lines and moves power from power generation plants to substations.

Trees must grow far enough from the conductors that they won’t hurt or harm individuals or cause a disruption to electric service. Vegetation that has the potential to grow taller than 10’ will be removed.

Planting guidelines near transmission lines

animation showing distances to plant trees near transmission lines
animation showing how far away to plant trees near a transmission line

Distribution

Distribution lines and equipment carry electricity from local substations to customers’ homes and businesses. These lines are often found overhead on utility poles but are sometimes located underground. The most common voltage for electricity being moved along distribution lines is 12,470 volts.

LG&E and KU maintain hundreds of miles of overhead distribution power lines. Trees can pose a serious safety hazard and reliability threat to these lines if they are not maintained. Overhead distribution lines are the ones that most often experience outages related to trees and other vegetation.

For underground electric service, we need to keep as much open space as possible around the pad-mounted transformers that deliver electricity to the home or business. The pad-mounted transformer is the rectangular green box located near a property line. In order to provide easy access for LG&E and KU to get inside the transformer to perform any necessary repairs or maintenance, we advise you to keep the area free from obstructions, and to provide adequate access, work and safety clearances.

Planting guidelines for planting near overhead distribution lines

animation showing how far away to plant trees near distribution lines
animation showing how far away to plant trees near distribution lines

Avoid Planting in the Wrong Place

Avoid planting closer than 8 feet from the front and 2 feet from the sides of pad-mount transformers, and 10 feet from the base of utility poles. Keep vegetation less than 8 feet from ground level.

graphic showing distance to plant from pad transformers and utility poles

Q&A

What's a right-of-way or easement?

A right-of-way (or easement) is a strip of land underneath or around power lines that is acquired from a property owner. The easement gives LG&E and KU the right to build, maintain and operate the lines on the property. In addition, it allows the company – or others working on our behalf – to access the property to clear any vegetation or trees – dead or alive – that pose a potential threat to the safety and reliability of the power line.

Transmission: The width of a transmission easement can vary depending on the voltage of electricity that is being transmitted on the lines. For example:

  • Transmission lines that carry 69kv to 138kv typically require an easement or right of way that is 100 feet wide
  • Transmission lines that carry 230kv to 345kv typically require an easement or right of way that is 150 feet wide

Distribution: The distribution right of way for LG&E is typically 25 feet wide; for KU, the distribution right of way is typically 30 feet wide. This allows sufficient space for our crews to access the lines to clear live or dead vegetation or trees – inside or outside the right of way – that pose a potential threat to safety and/or reliability.

What type of equipment does LG&E and KU use to perform right-of-way clearance?

LG&E and KU crews will use chainsaws, mowers, chippers and bucket trucks or tree climbers to perform this work. Herbicide may also be used to prevent the growth of low-growing plants and other vegetation around trees that remain in the area.

What if a tree needs to be removed?

We understand how important trees and natural landscape are to our customers, the community and the environment. They're important to us, too. When a tree needs to be removed, more often than not it’s for safety reasons. In every situation, we work to balance aesthetic concerns with our responsibility to provide safe, reliable electricity.

My electric service is underground? Why am I being notified?

Even if your electric service is underground, it eventually connects to overhead lines that serve your area which could be impacted by tree growth. We want you to be aware of the work we are doing and make sure you know we are in your area doing this work. We encourage you to be mindful of our crews' presence as you travel through the area.