Trees and Power Lines, A Dangerous Duo

Did you know that the combination of trees and power lines account for roughly 30% of all power outages? Yeah, that is a lot. Power companies like Portland General Electric do a lot to try to minimize outages from trees. They keep tabs on thousands of trees growing in the right away of power lines with their tree maintenance program. In fact, Portland General Electric’s tree maintenance program assesses every tree in power line right of ways every 2-3 years and boy, that is a lot of work. Here’s a bit of how they do it.

Even with all of that effort, over 90% of outages caused by trees come from branches outside the power line right of way. Next time you find yourself cursing the power company because of an outage, make sure you’ve done your part to prevent power outages by choosing the right tree in a good location. In Portland, we call this Right Tree, Right Place – here is how it works.

Right Tree, Right Place in the Portland Metro Area

Portland General Electric offers this diagram to help homeowners understand the 3 different zones around trees and power lines and how that affects what types of trees can be planted in what zones.


Zone 1 – Right underneath power lines

In this area, stick with smaller trees that range from 20-35’ in height. They are generally speaking, compatible with overhead power lines. Don’t forget to consider the shape or spread of the tree; a species with a spreading crown is better suited to a wider parking strip.

Zone 2 – The front or side yard

Small to medium trees are good in this area, depending on the size of your front or side yards. Medium trees grow to be about 35-50’ tall.

Zone 3 – The back yard

In the backyard, any size tree is okay — depending on the size of your yard. Trees that are over 50’ tall are considered large trees. Before planting, ensure your yard is really large enough to handle a tree this size.

In both Zones 2 and 3, plant trees with spreading crowns at least 25 feet away from wires, sidewalks and buildings and you’ll be doing your part to help prevent power outages for you and your neighbors.

There are a slew of other tree resources on the Portland General Electric website should you need them. They provide guides on pruning, selecting tree and inspecting trees.

Call a Tree Expert in Portland

Need a tree expert to help navigate your yard and the neighboring power lines? ArborPro Tree Experts are certified arborists with experience in growing and maintaining almost any type of tree. Whether you have a tree that is growing dangerously close to a power line, or just want advice on where and what to plant, give us a ring. We’re here to help home and business owners all across the Portland Metro area including Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Tualatin, Sherwood, Oregon City, Hillsboro, Milwaukie, Happy Valley, Tigard, Gresham, and more.

Tree Zones diagram courtesy of Portland General Electric.

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