Much like the Great Lakes, trees are a part of Michigan’s natural splendor. Unfortunately, trees are involved in about 40% of all power outages. Trees that are too close to power lines can pose a danger to our workers and to homeowners as well. Trimming and removing select trees from areas surrounding power lines helps us provide safe, reliable electric service to communities throughout Michigan.
From our earliest beginnings, Consumers Energy has recognized our responsibility to bring energy service to the community in the safest manner possible. Since the late 1800s, it has been our practice to secure easements – legal rights to use land owned by others for a specific purpose – in order to install, maintain and expand electric lines and natural gas pipelines. Easements stay with the title of the land, so our facilities can stay in place no matter who owns it.
It takes skilled management to ensure that the trees we delight in do not interfere with the safe and reliable delivery of electricity. Our foresters are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture and follow established guidelines. Additionally, we work with contractors who employ qualified line-clearance arborists to maintain minimum clearances necessary to minimize power outages. If tree trimming or removal is scheduled for your property, you’ll be notified either by mail or with a door-hanger left on-site. This notification will specify the work to be performed, including which trees will be affected. We’ll also provide a forestry representative’s contact information should you have any questions or concerns.
When crews trim trees, they follow industry-accepted standards which vary based on the voltage of nearby electric lines.
Other factors, such as species, location, and health of the tree influence electric line clearance guidelines. Sometimes, it is necessary to remove all trees within the defined right-of-way to ensure safe and reliable service. Additionally, it’s common to identify trees growing outside these legal easement areas that pose a significant risk to the safety of the community and the reliable operation of our system. In these cases, we need your cooperation with our crews so we can safely address these hazardous trees. We’ll notify you of plans to trim or remove these trees, which may also pose a threat to nearby buildings and property.
Minimum Clearances Necessary to Minimize Power Outages
Distribution - Secondary
Allow sufficient clearance to ensure that the secondary or service wire is not displaced
Distribution - Primary
(4,800 to 14,400 volts)
Right-of-way: typically 30' wide
Trimmed trees: A minimum of 10' clearance from the wire
Removed Trees: 15' on both sides of the pole line
Hazard trees: 35' on both sides of pole line
High Voltage Distribution
Right-of-way: typically 80' wide
Trimmed trees: A minimum of 15' clearance from the wire
Removed Trees: 40' on both sides of the pole line
Hazard trees: 80' on both sides of pole line
Tree Trimming and Removal: What to Expect
1. One of our forestry planners identifies the tree and brush work to be done.
Trees to be trimmed will be marked with a blue dot (.). Trees requiring a full removal will be marked with a blue X (or blue A if outside the right-of-way). Smaller brush may also be cleared and intermittently marked with a blue slash (/).
2. Consumers Energy assigns projects to contractors who use qualified line-clearance arborists.
3. Workers must follow our specifications while performing scheduled maintenance clearing:
In lawn areas, brush is usually chipped; larger wood is cut into pieces and left onsite.
In unmaintained areas, brush is either piled in windrows (which creates good habitat for wildlife and suppresses future tree growth) or is mowed and scattered within the right-of-way.
If trees are removed, stumps are cut as close to the ground as possible and treated with an herbicide to prevent regrowth.
Following storms, trees and limbs may be cleared to enable crews to make repairs and restore electric services. In these instances, wood, limbs and debris are left on-site.
Use of Herbicides
Our forestry professionals and contractors are trained and certified in the use of herbicides. Once areas are cleared by our crews, herbicides may be used to maintain these areas and for treating stumps to prevent resprouting. Sometimes we use herbicides to remove growing vegetation from areas with heavy brush, but leave the brush standing to create habitat for wildlife and suppress future tree growth. For our customers’ safety, we use herbicides that bind quickly and tightly to surrounding soil. If herbicides are to be used in your area, we will notify residents directly or through newspaper ads; we’ll also provide contact information for a forestry planner or contract employee, in case you have questions or concerns.
If you see a downed power line or tree/limb on a wire, stay away and call us immediately.
Call 9-1-1 and 800-477-5050
Trees and Power Lines
We trim and remove trees on a regular schedule to prevent dangerous situations and outages.