Avian Safety with Electrical Transformers

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The knock on the door caught me off guard, but I was delighted by the unexpected visit. Our electrical company (PNM) had sent pole climbers out to replace our transformer with a newer and avian-safe model.


The team lead explained that utility poles are a place birds naturally find to roost, nest, or seek protection from tumultuous weather.  While birds can sit on power lines and be safe, if they touch energized conductors and/or grounded equipment (like a transformer bank) they can be electrocuted. This seems to happen frequently when large birds stretch out their wings.

I shuddered at the thought and was grateful that the crew showed up to replace our transformer (unsafe version on the left, safe version on the right below).  We have large birds!  Large crows, ravens, and flickers. The team lead went on to explain that PNM was considered one of the leading utilities in the country for its efforts in avian protection. That caught my attention, so I went online to learn more.








I found the information I was looking for and was thrilled to learn that PNM’s Avian Protection Program includes:

  1. Identifying high risk electric structures for bird deaths and proactively bird guarding these facilities through best practices ranging from covering exposed wires and equipment bushings to covering conductors where spacing is inadequate;
  2. Making bird guarding a part of routine electric facility maintenance;
  3. Designing and constructing all new lines and other facilities with avian protection in mind;
  4. Using a Geographical Information System reporting system to track bird mortalities on the PNM electric system and automatically generating bird guarding work orders;
  5. Implementing “Hot Wings” that focuses on the use of avian safe structures in the most sensitive avian areas such as along the Rio Grande and all rural areas;
  6. Implementing mandatory avian protection training every two years for PNM transmission and distribution employees.

I had not thought before about how electrical poles and transformers impact our backyard birds, but I was thrilled to learn that our electrical company is avian conscious. Is yours? One way to find out is to make a simple call to the customer service number for your utility company. Or check their website. You may find yourself as equally pleased as I am!


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