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Bird's the word

August 18, 2011

It may still be summer, but our substations keep their jackets on all year long… their Greenjackets™, that is. These protective covers help save Alberta's wildlife from electrical contact every day. AltaLink had the opportunity to show how this technology works last week in Banff, when we hosted an international workshop on bird protection programs.

Approximately 100 people from across North America came together to educate one another and share experiences about bird protection. AltaLink's commitment to bird protection was evident when Dennis Frehlich, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, opened the workshop and showed how supportive AltaLink's leadership team is towards this program. He also encouraged other utilities to get on board and start developing avian protection plans (APP).

Not only were there wildlife biologists, utility employees and government agencies at the workshop, but the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation brought along special guests – four different species of owls and a small falcon, which had everyone, including grown men, cooing over the feathered friends (see Mark Savoy below). Attendees were able to hold Mr. Bogle, a 25-year-old great horned owl, as well as a burrowing owl, one of Alberta's endangered species. Colin Weir, managing director of the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale, told the Lethbridge Herald that Alberta's electric utilities are "going to great lengths to minimize negative interaction between birds and power lines."

The workshop took place from August 10 to 12, with more than 24 presentations addressing avian issues. On the final day, participants were taken on a road trip to learn about the highway wildlife crossing structures in Banff, and then on to one of AltaLink's avian-safe substations.

During the substation tour, Cantega Technologies showed how effective its Greenjacket substation covers are at protecting wildlife from contacting electrical equipment. AltaLink was instrumental in the development of these covers, which have significantly reduced wildlife-caused outages. To date, AltaLink has installed Greenjacket covers in 43 of our existing substations and we now have a standard that requires all new substations to have Greenjacket covers installed as proactive mitigation.

Overall, the workshop was a huge success. "It was a great opportunity for electric utilities to learn from each another and take their experiences back to their organizations," says Nikki Heck, Environmental Advisor. "AltaLink was proud to lead this workshop and share the successes of our APP with our peers."

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