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Overhead wires

taxodium distichum
Taxodium distichum, a tree with a narrow canopy, was selected and planted the proper distance from the overhead wires.

Trees are often planted too close to power lines. When branches reach wires, the utility company must prune or trim them to ensure uninterrupted utility service. Unfortunately, this costs utility companies (and ultimately the customers) more than one billion dollars (1995 dollars) each year in the United States.

Costs could be lowered by planting only properly sized trees near wires (see table and figure). It is best to plant trees as far away from wires as possible. Planting farther from the wire will allow you to choose from a greater variety of trees.

Some communities that do not receive ice and heavy snow storms allow trees to be trained to grow well over the wires. This allows planting of large maturing trees close to wires. Be sure to notify the utility companies in your area before embarking on this practice. They will have to coordinate and train the pruning crews on the specialized techniques required for this training.

figure for planting near wires

figure for planting near wires


planting hole is this distance from wire/light    

you would like to train a tall tree over the wire/light*

you would like to keep branches away from wire/lights


Pick trees with these characteristics
0 - 6 feet not recommended  
6 - 18 feet expected height at least twice wire/light height mature height about 10 feet less than wire/light height
18 - 40 feet not recommended mature height about 10 feet less than wire/light height, or mature canopy spread about 10 feet less than twice the distance to the wire/light
more than 40 feet ------------------- any tree can be planted -------------------
* If this is the intention, be sure all interested parties are made aware of the plans, including the utility company, urban forester, tree pruning contractor, property owner, and so on. This is a maintenance-intensive strategy, and may not be suited for cities that receive ice storms.

See: more on trees and powerlines