While 2020 was anything but normal, we were able to still complete multiple system improvement and maintenance projects that ultimately mean better power quality and reliability for our members.
Throughout the past year, we have been much more focused on working with members to address problematic trees and right-of-way access. Our electrical system covers more than 1,000 miles of energized line, much of it through wooded areas. Unfortunately, trees and power lines just are not a good mix. In fact, trees growing in or around power lines are the top cause of blinks and outages on our system. Without our tree maintenance program, outages would have been much worse during the recent January ice storm.
Also, this last year, we built three new three-phase tie lines that interconnect Marshall County REMC substations and delivery points. These new main feeder lines give us much more flexibility to transfer load from one delivery point to another in the event we lose our power source. This ability is often key in being able to quickly restore large member outages. Together, between these projects and our annual pole maintenance program, we changed over 686 poles throughout the system in 2020.
As we wrapped up the year, we were able to complete the installation of the fiber placement for our smart grid fiber loop that will interconnect our office, substations/delivery points and all critical devices throughout our system. In 2021, we will begin phase II of the project, which is the actual connection of Marshall County REMC devices into the fiber loop. Devices that are connected then can be remotely monitored, which gives us much better insight and visibility into the grid. This will allow us to improve reliability by delivering real-time information so we can quickly spot and fix potential problems and identify outage locations.
There is no doubt the pandemic has greatly affected many of our members and the co-op over the past year, but we have remained dedicated to providing safe and reliable electricity. The past year has been full of uncertainties, but you can rest assured that your electric co-op will be there when you turn the lights on.