Did you know? Products to protect power grid, animals come from Fuquay-Varina

FUQUAY-VARINA, N.C. (WTVD) -- To keep the lights on at your house, electric utilities have to ward off a very persistent opponent: wildlife.

In Fuquay-Varina, the TE Connectivity plant is turning out products used worldwide to protect the power grid from animals, and animals from those high voltage areas.

Experts say springtime is when animals pose the highest risk to substations.

Duke Energy lists animals as the biggest reason for power outages behind only trees and storms, naming squirrels Public Enemy No. 1, causing power outages to about 200,000 customers across the Carolinas during the last five years.

At TE, experts make various parts that create barriers between hot spots in the power grid infrastructure and animals.

"At a substation, everything's incredibly expensive," said Stephen Parker, who specializes in TE's Wildlife and Asset Protection products. "So now, $50,000 down the drain. Your lights are going to be off for probably overnight or a day or until a crew can come out and fix it."

TE's bushing covers, large plastic capsules that cover hot spots, help to prevent tens of thousands of dollars of damage to infrastructure, subsequent outages, and harm to the animal itself.

Parker said the global company makes the majority of the products at its Fuquay-Varina plant and supplies the parts to utilities all over the world, including Duke Energy.

"Squirrels and other animals can create a lot of damage for our electrical systems and it really just depends on what they're getting into," said Meredith Archie, spokesperson for Duke Energy. "But when we think about our critical infrastructure and our substations, those serve a lot of customers so a squirrel or a snake or any other animal can really create a big headache for our customers and large number of outages."

New this year is TE's wildlife line guard, which Parker said is rolling out to utilities for the first time. Parker said the smooth-tip, spike-covered spinners applied to power lines help to keep squirrels and other wildlife from reaching the substation in the first place without causing harm to the animals.
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