Versant Power has found an electrifying way to deter squirrels and other intruders to substations that inadvertently cause power outages.

What is Being Done to Discourage the Squirrels?

Squirrels are the most likely animal to cause a disruption, although snakes and birds can also be an issue. On Sunday, October 9th, 20222, for example, 7,500 Versant customers lost power because a squirrel made its way into a Bangor substation. It was the second time in two weeks that a fluffy-tailed rodent had put people in the dark at the same location. So the folks at Versant Power took action to zap the problem and protect their customers' service.

This week, a substation on North Street in Bangor that serves the Broadway area will flip the switch on a new, electric fence manufactured by Transguard to help keep the critters out. Power Systems Technical Supervisor Riley McKay explains why the first fence was put there.

In suburban areas, there are always a lot of squirrels, and for some reason, this substation has been a magnet for them.

Transguard is the leading animal-deterrent fencing made specifically for substations.

Are the Fences Effective?

A similar fence was installed at the Tibbetts Street substation in Brewer, after several issues with squirrels causing outages. Since the fence went in, Versant officials say the fuzzy intruders haven't been a problem. The fence is positioned inside the substation enclosure, with a non-electric fence surrounding it to protect people from coming in contact with the current.

Are Squirrels a Big Problem for State Utility Companies?

In Maine, trees are the primary cause of outages, according to the folks at Versant Power. But squirrels are also a common problem, especially in the autumn when they're making preparations for colder weather. When a squirrel steps in the wrong place, it can cause what's called a 'fault path.' Versant's protective equipment senses that fault and take steps to protect it, which results in a power outage. It also will kill the squirrel. With this new, humane electric fence, the squirrels will receive a humane jolt that will deter them, but does not kill them. This is a correction from the original draft of this article. I misunderstood and thought the zap from the electric fence would kill the squirrels, but it actually delivers a humane shock that may stun them, but they scamper away with the knowledge (hopefully) that this is a good place to stay away from.

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