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Plan before you plant

Thinking about planting a new tree? Look up from where you intend to plant, and see if any power lines are overhead or nearby. Then, consider what that tree will look like several years from now. It may be hard to imagine the small tree you plant today could grow as tall as 100 feet.

Trees can add beauty to your home and shade to boost your energy efficiency. They are a vital part of a healthy and vibrant community, providing ecological, aesthetic and economic benefits. But trees planted too close to power lines can grow into big problems and be expensive to maintain.

To provide you with safe, reliable service, most power companies maintain trees and other vegetation along their power lines. You can do your part to help keep trees healthy and prevent power outages by planting the right tree in the right place. 

When planting within 20 feet of an overhead power line, you should choose large shrubs or small trees that grow no more than 15 feet. Trees planted 20 to 50 feet from a power line should grow no more than 40 feet tall. And trees that grow more than 40 feet should be planted more than 50 feet from power lines.

Call before you dig

No matter what type of tree you decide to plant, always call before you dig. Call your local power company and have underground utilities detected at least two business days before tree planting is scheduled to take place.

Planting near Distribution Lines vs. Transmission Lines

Distribution Lines

Tree height, canopy spread, tree form and the tree’s growth rate must all be considered when planning to plant near overhead electrical and communication lines. The size and type of utility lines also must be considered. Distribution lines are power lines under 69,000 kilovolts.

If you plan to plant within 10 feet of overhead distribution power lines or poles, you must get written permission from Duke Energy. Your power company's policy may be different so make sure to be in contact with them before spending money on a project near power lines. Most utility companies will have certified arborists on staff and available to work with you to review the proposed planting to see if small trees (at maturity) are compatible with the location. 

3 examples of distribution lines
Above are illustrations of distributions lines.

Also, be mindful of plantings near underground transformers. Any plantings meant to screen the ground transformer must be at least 10 feet from the transformer. 
Here is the equation used to decide a tree's planting location from the center of the distribution line corridor and two examples:

1/2 the canopy width + 15 feet

Here are two examples:
White Oak (average mature canopy is 70 feet)
70 ÷ 2 = 35 and 35 + 15 = 50 feet
So, a white oak would need to be planted 50 feet from the center of the power line corridor.

Eastern Redbud (average mature canopy is 30 feet)
30 ÷ 2 = 15 and 15 + 15 = 30 feet
So, an eastern redbud needs to be planted 30 feet from the center of the power line corridor.


Transmission Lines

Transmission lines are power lines greater than 69,000 kilovolts. Trees should not be planted under transmission lines, and only trees that reach a mature height of 12 feet can be planted within the border zone of the maintained right of way. Any trees planted within the maintained right of way require written authorization from your power company. 

Other Suggestions

In most communities, individuals must have written permission (typically a permit) before planting a tree within a publicly owned right of way. This includes land between a street and sidewalk. Also check property boundaries between private property and municipal property. City property can extend into residential yards past sidewalks and fences.  

You also should consider how big a tree or shrub may become at maturity when planting near homes, sidewalks, windows, street lights, ground transformers, etc. Trees and shrubs may eventually become too large for a location, leading to costly removals and re-plantings.

If you are a Duke Energy customer, more information can be found on their website.


Walter Clark said:

I do agree that larger and taller trees increase the risk of destroying power lines during a severe major storm that cause power outages when trees fall on them, and then they destroy them, and smaller trees and shrubs are much safer near (or under) power lines that should help keep the power on even during a severe major storm.
In the future, all states should create (or enact) laws that should enforce a ban on planting tall trees near powerlines, and then making tall trees near power lines illegal.

Taylor Hansen said:

It’s good to know that you should call before you dig around poles. I have a powerline nearby that I want to plant a tree next to. I’ll remember these tips to avoid any problems.

Vivian Park said:

Great article. I agree that no matter what type of tree you decide to plant, always call before you dig.

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