Squirrels: They're cute, they're clever and they're diabolical.
Okay, they're not evil, but they are responsible for about two-thirds of substation outages caused by animals. When you consider more than a third of all substation outages are animal-related, squirrels are indeed on the most-unwanted list.
The substations are premium real estate for squirrels and raccoons, which are attracted to the warmth and vibration from electrical equipment.
But once they get inside, chances are good they'll be electrocuted, putting hundreds or thousands of homes and businesses in the dark for several hours or more.
Consumers Energy says it's taking steps to make it more difficult for animals to set up housekeeping in substations.
"We're putting in perimeter fences with one-inch mesh instead of two-inch," says spokesman Roger Morgenstern. "We're putting clear plastic on the fences so animals can't climb it, and adding plastic disks on the wires to keep the squirrels off. The wooden fence posts are being banded with aluminum, much the way you would put a baffle on a bird feeder."
Consumers Energy owns and operates more than 1,200 substation across Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Morgernstern says the new animal control devices will be installed as the utility upgrades its facilities.