Impacts of Climate Change on Utility Vegetation Management in Florida
Morton, Richard P. III
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With the ever-growing concerns about climate change and its impacts, it was time to take a look at what kind of role it might play on the number of vegetation caused outages across the state of Florida. Vegetation falling on power lines and equipment is one of the leading causes of outages, which negatively impacts a utility’s customers and can be costly. This Capstone Project through the Energy Policy and Climate program at Johns Hopkins looks directly at that issue since there has been very little previous research done on the subject. The aim of this project is to determine if there is a link between climate change and the number of vegetation caused power outages, which would at least start a discussion on what steps might need to be taken to mitigate the impacts if a clear link is found. The basis for this study comes from previous research which has shown how climate change will impact forest growth. With longer growing seasons and changes in perception levels, trees will be able to grow for longer periods of times. Variability in weather patterns can lead to more extreme events, which will also impact the health of a tree. In order to determine if there is any link between climate change and the number of vegetation caused outages, yearly average temperatures, wind speeds, and rainfall totals were gathered for the entire state of Florida. Analysis was done to look for any correlation amongst the variables and to determine if any of them appeared to play a role in the number of outages. Ultimately, due to the way the outages are reported to the state, there was inconclusive evidence to determine if there is a link. This does not mean the project was a failure, and instead valuable information was gained on what data would be needed to successfully retest the hypothesis in a future study. Better reporting would allow for researchers to show that there may be a link between climate change and the number of vegetation caused power outages through the showing of patterns between the different utilities.