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Hawaiian Electric blames overgrown albizias for Hawaii Kai outages

COURTESY HAWAIIAN ELECTRIC
                                The company’s helicopter inspections showed that critical transmission line corridors have been choked by the extensive overgrowth of invasive albizias.
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COURTESY HAWAIIAN ELECTRIC

The company’s helicopter inspections showed that critical transmission line corridors have been choked by the extensive overgrowth of invasive albizias.

Hawaiian Electric says overgrown albizia trees led to the recent power outages in East Honolulu, and that it is developing plans to clear the area.

The company’s helicopter inspections showed that critical transmission line corridors have been choked by the extensive overgrowth of invasive albizias.

“We have schedules we follow to cut back vegetation from critical areas but invasive albizia are especially challenging because they grow so quickly and have branches that can break off easily, especially in heavy rains,” Jim Alberts, senior vice president and chief operations officer of Hawaiian Electric, said in a news release today. “We’re developing action plans to clear this area to ensure reliable service to the area.”

Albizias, according to the Hawaii Invasive Species Council, are considered a high risk to the state’s natural ecosystem and native forests. The fast-growing trees can reach up to 150 feet tall, and have brittle limbs prone to “sudden branch drop,” where branches suddenly fall without warning.

These falling limbs can block roads and waterways, and damage public infrastructure, including utilities, potentially leading to power outages.

Hawaiian Electric said last weekend, an albizia tree fell across one of these lines, causing portions of Hawaii Kai to lose power.

The corridors are essential because East Honolulu relies on power lines to bring electricity from Windward Oahu.

Hawaiian Electric said it spends about $12 million a year on vegetation management on Oahu.

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