Balloons Present Hazards for Power Lines

Graduation season is upon us and, as with many other types of celebrations, you may be thinking about celebrating with mylar or metallic balloons. These shiny and colorful decorations brighten any celebration but can quickly leave you in the dark if not used and disposed of properly.

“When metallic balloons come into contact with power lines, it can get in between the energized conductor and the neutral wire and cause an arc,” explained Clint Meier, Vice President of Engineering and Operations for Southern Pioneer Electric. “When this happens, it can shut the line off – creating an interruption in service.”

Balloon contact with power lines has other consequences, too. Sparks from the balloon’s contact can create a fire and ignite debris on the ground. Current drought conditions could exacerbate the potential of fires spreading rapidly.

Any time balloons or other debris become tangled in lines, crews must remove it as soon as possible. If the balloon does not create a service interruption, crews may have to initiate one to remove anything from the line safely.

Meier also explained that conditions worsen when balloons encounter substations – where power from transmission lines is stepped down and distributed to consumers. When balloons come into contact with the confined space of a substation, the potential for more extensive (and expensive) damage occurs.

“You may also be faced with a larger, more widespread service interruption if it comes from a substation instead of a pole,” said Meier.

Balloons aren’t the only thing than can become tangled in power lines; kites also present a safety and reliability concern.

“Kites are a concern because you’re connected to them,” said Meier. “Electricity will always find the quickest path to ground; if you’re holding on to a kite that becomes tangled in a power line, and if the conditions are just right, power could travel down the kite string and into you.”

Whether it’s balloons or kites, there are safety considerations for both:

  • Keep metallic balloons inside and never intentionally release balloons.
  • Always tie balloons down or use a weight.
  • Deflate balloons when you’re finished with them and dispose of them properly.
  • Never fly balloons or kites near power lines.
  • Contact Southern Pioneer if balloons or kites become tangled in power lines or substations. Never attempt to remove objects from power lines.

“Public safety is always our number one concern,” said Meier. “The best thing you can do if you see balloons or kites in a power line is contact our office immediately. Our crews are trained to handle the situation and will work to resolve the issue as quickly and safely as possible.”

To report balloons, kites or other objects in power lines call Southern Pioneer at 1-800-670-4381. Customers can also call our outage and emergency reporting lines at 620-624-7309, 1-866-668-8800 (toll free) or by using the “Contact Us” feature through the SmartHub App.

Southern Pioneer Electric passes through $630,000 in credits for billing adjustments related to Winter Storm Uri.

Southern Pioneer Electric is passing through credits for billing adjustments from Sunflower Electric Power Corporation related to February 2021’s Winter Storm Uri to consumers in March 2023 billings. This pass-through credit will be reflected in the Energy Cost Adjustment (ECA) on consumers’ upcoming bills. The credits are the result of market settlements and billing adjustments related to the wholesale power and generation costs during the event.

The unprecedented winter storm event provided the cooperative with a $17-20 million addition to its February 2021 wholesale power bill. To recover costs incurred by the cooperative,  Southern Pioneer implemented a “Storm Uri Recovery Charge” to amortize these costs over 36 months.

Sunflower Electric has been tracking the cumulative cost adjustments (Southwest Power Pool market settlements, natural gas billing adjustments, etc.) since Winter Storm Uri occurred in February 2021. Since the risk of additional adjustments is minimal, Sunflower is crediting the current balance of the adjustments, approximately $630,000, with February’s billing to Southern Pioneer Electric. In return, the Southern Pioneer Electric Board approved to return of the credit to consumers through its March 2023 ECA.

“Winter Storm Uri was an unprecedented event that some consumers are still feeling the impact of,” said Vice President of Energy Services, Anita Wendt. “This passthrough is the result of our commitment to ensure any credits Southern Pioneer receives directly benefit our consumers.”

Consumers may direct questions regarding the credit pass-through to the Southern Pioneer Electric customer service team by calling 620-624-7433 or 866-668-8800.

Southern Pioneer Electric Scholarship Application Now Open

Southern Pioneer Electric is accepting applications for its 2023 scholarship contest. $22,000 in scholarships will be given out to students within Southern Pioneer’s service territory. To be considered for a scholarship, students must meet the criteria outlined within Southern Pioneer Electric’s scholarship application:

  • Students must attend high school, be a 2023 spring graduate and reside within the district of one of the schools within our service territory. Eligible schools include: Ashland, Cunningham, Kiowa County, Kiowa South Barber, Liberal, Medicine Lodge, Minneola, Satanta, Skyline, South Central, Southwestern Heights, and Sublette.
  • Complete the application on the cooperative’s website .
  • Submit a one-page resume stating future plans, activities the student participated in, accomplishments, honors, community involvement and employment. Please do not include references.
  • Submit a seventh-semester transcript (official or certified copy) from the student’s high school. Transcripts may be mailed to Southern Pioneer at:

Southern Pioneer Electric Scholarship Program
c/o Ruby Terrazas
PO Box 1177
Liberal, KS 67901

Transcripts may also be emailed by a staff member of the student’s school to

  • A brief, five to ten sentence, paragraph detailing why the student would be a good recipient of the scholarship. Space for the paragraph is available within the application.

Students must submit their application no later than 12 P.M. on March 9, 2023 to be considered for this year’s scholarships. Questions about Southern Pioneer Electric’s scholarship program and the 2023 application may be directed to Ruby Terrazas, energy services coordinator by calling 1 (800) 670-4381 or emailing