The New York Power Authority announced it has become the first right‑of‑way steward utility to achieve reaccreditation from the Right‑of‑Way Stewardship Council (ROWSC). It did this by meeting the latest standards for sustainable Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) of transmission rights‑of‑way. (Transmission rights-of-way is the land underneath transmission lines that utilities use to construct, maintain or repair power lines and keep it clear of tall trees and other structures that could interfere with line operation.)
NYPA is one of seven North American utilities established as a right‑of‑way steward utility, and was only the third utility to be accredited and established as a right-of-way steward utility founder. The recognition from the ROWSC reflects NYPA’s progress toward meeting its strategic vision 2020 by implementing IVM procedures that increase the resiliency and reliability of NYPA’s transmission infrastructure while promoting environmental, social and economic sustainability.
The ROWSC sets the standards for preserving and maintaining transmission system rights‑of‑way. To meet the technical requirements, utilities must implement IVM, which balances the control of undesirable species by allowing desirable low‑growing shrub and grassy areas that don’t obstruct transmission lines or utility access to flourish. By populating transmission corridors with desirable species, utilities can limit the natural resources available to undesirable species, in turn reducing the need to control those undesirable species.
Utilities must apply to the ROWSC to start the accreditation process. As part of the process, the ROWSC performs a field audit and assessment, comparing all aspects of a utility’s IVM program to the principles and criteria set forth in the latest standards. After satisfying the program criteria during an audit in September, NYPA officially received reaccreditation on Dec. 3. The reaccreditation reflects NYPA’s work to improve the reliability of the New York state power system under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s leadership and “Reforming the Energy Vision” strategy, as well as its pioneering efforts to promote IVM and ecosystem preservation.
“NYPA applies integrated vegetation management not only to prevent system downtime, but also to deliver increasing value to our local communities and customers by managing the transmission infrastructure through a lens of sustainability,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “The right-of-way steward accreditation is becoming widely recognized, and more utilities are following our example by incorporating IVM practices into their operations.”
Vegetation management became a particularly important focus area for utilities following the Northeast blackout of 2003, which was caused by transmission lines sagging and coming into contact with foliage.
“Better vegetation management in your right‑of‑way leads to a more reliable electric system,” said Lewis Payne, NYPA manager of ROW/environmental. “When you’re a right‑of‑way steward, you’re also looking at the flora and fauna, the environmental issues and the cultural resources to maintain the rich biodiversity that’s out there. It’s about fulfilling your responsibility to the environment and the community, as well as your stakeholders and your customers.”
NYPA owns and operates approximately one‑third of New York’s high‑voltage power lines. These lines transmit power from NYPA’s three large hydroelectric generation facilities and independent wind power generation facilities, connecting nearly 7,000 megawatts of renewable energy to New York state’s power grid. This includes connecting more than 6,300 megawatts of hydroelectric power and about 700 megawatts (or more than a third) of New York state‑generated wind energy to the grid.
About Right-of-Way Stewardship Council
The ROWSC is an accreditation program that is being pursued by a diverse group of stakeholders to provide standards of excellence for environmental stewardship along rights‑of‑way (ROW) and presents the opportunity for utility companies to demonstrate their commitment to such standards. It establishes standards for responsible ROW vegetation management within high‑voltage electric transmission corridors. The aim of the program is to promote the application of integrated vegetation management and best management practices to the utility vegetation management industry in order to maintain power system reliability and address ecological concerns.
NYPA is the largest state public power organization in the nation, operating 16 generating facilities and more than 1,400 circuit‑miles of transmission lines. More than 70 percent of the electricity NYPA produces is clean, renewable hydropower. NYPA uses no tax money or state credit. It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity. For more information, visit www.nypa.gov.