Charlotte sees dramatic jump in power outages in 2020

Updated: Nov. 12, 2020 at 6:17 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - On the back of a dramatic year of weather, the Charlotte area has seen a 50 percent jump in weather related power outages events in 2020, according to Duke Energy.

Many Charlotteans have noticed

Trey Tucker has been staying home a lot more during the pandemic so he was often aware when he lost power.

“With the coronavirus going on it’s been really disruptive and discouraging,” Tucker said.

Tucker says he’s lost power at least eleven times this year and it’s taking a toll.

“Eleven outages is just, to me, kind of ridiculous,” Tucker said.

WBTV wanted to find out just how often the lights go out in Mecklenburg County.

But no state agency keeps detailed data on outages from the different utility companies.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety has an easily accessible heat map that shows current outages in counties across North Carolina but a spokesperson said they don’t hold on to that data.

Similarly, the Utilities Commission requires utility companies to report ratios of power outages against the number of customers impacted but they don’t have the amount of outages.

Both agencies said, that for data on the Charlotte area, Duke Energy had the answer.

“The reliability of the overall system in general is 99.8 percent plus,” Duke Energy Central Zone VP Mark Wimberly said.

Wimberly and other representatives of Duke took WBTV to Providence Plantation to show some of their efforts to prevent power outages from occurring. Line crews were installing new power poles to replace old, rotten ones that are more likely to fall during bad weather.

Weather has been the recurring theme for power outages in 2020 according to Wimberly.

"It’s more about weather this year than anything else. We’ve had a rough weather year, especially during the Spring, in the Charlotte area.

Across Charlotte and the surrounding areas there has been a 52 percent increase in weather related outage events this year compared to 2019. The area that saw the greatest increase was the Matthew operations territory which had a 23 percent increase in events compared to 2019.

- Matthews operations center territory: 23% increase in outage events this year to date compared to 2019

- Newell operations center territory: 16% increase in outage events this year to date compared to 2019

- Little Rock operations center territory: 17% increase in outage events this year to date compared to 2019.

- Gastonia operations center territory: 16% increase in outage events this year to date compared to 2019.

- Kannapolis operations center territory: 9% increase in outage events this year to date compared to 2019.

The problem with bad weather is it causes trees to fall.

60 percent of Duke’s outages are because of trees but often those trees aren’t on their property and have to get permission, which isn’t always easy. In response Duke says it has increased its tree trimming project and is even working with neighborhoods on trees to plant that are less likely to fall during a storm.

They’re also burying lines underground but Wimberly said that they rely on data showing the areas most prone to power outages before tackling that process.

“Most of our systems remain overhead and it is very costly to put the mainline feeders underground,” Wimberly said.

“When it makes economic sense to put underground, we do that.”

Duke is also developing a “self healing” technology so that power outages will basically repair themselves for some customers.

Duke expects to install enough self-healing technology to serve most customers in the next few years. The self-healing system can automatically detect, isolate and reroute power when an outage occurs. This helps reduce the number of outages and the duration of an outage, by restoring power in a matter of minutes.

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