Everyone agrees that trees and power lines are a bad combination. So what happens if someone wants to install electric service in a treehouse?
You could say that Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) went out on a limb when one of its largest commercial accounts requested electric service for a treehouse perched in the branches of a 100-year-old oak tree.
Located in Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in aptly named Live Oak, Fla., this treehouse isn’t a ramshackle structure made by neighborhood kids. It’s a 400-squarefoot lodge with a custom spiral staircase, bedroom, bathroom, a small living area, and other flourishes. Its elaborate construction was even featured on the DIY Network’s “The Treehouse Guys” in October 2015.
“The treehouse has all the modern conveniences you would want,” says Baynard Ward, the co-op’s manager of community relations. “I would venture to say that SVEC is one of very few, if any, cooperatives that provide power to a treehouse that has been on national television.”
While the work of the six-member SVEC crew didn’t make it into the TV show, the co-op’s contribution was crucial. As treehouse construction was winding down in preparation for the big “reveal,” the “Treehouse Guys” team needed to establish electric service.
“The window of opportunity from final building inspection to the reveal show was pretty tight,” says Joe Barclay, an SVEC staking engineer.
Co-op crews had one week to finish the job, and because the old oak sat near a river bank, they had to obtain a variance and permit from the Suwannee River Water Management District. Having few choices where to map out the location of underground service, Barclay supervised park workers as they dug a 100-yard-long trench to lay conduit.
Next, SVEC journeyman Anthony Thompkins and his crew arrived to set the transformer. Because space was tight, crews mounted the 500-pound unit to the front of a trencher, which hauled it to the installation site about 100 yards away.
“It was quite a feat, but SVEC engineering and operations crews went above and beyond to make this special project happen,” Ward says. “Commitment to members is crucial and sometimes unconventional projects require unconventional means to get the job done.”