Replace Wood Power Poles with Composite Posts
Replace Wood Power Poles with Composite Posts
“According to The Wall Street Journal, the utility company's (PG&E) equipment led to more than 1,500 fires from June 2014 to December 2017” (McFall-Johnsen, 2019). Also, “during the summer of 2018 alone, the Department reported at least 17 more major wildfires that were triggered by power lines” (Atkinson, 2018). Many of these incidences were caused or complicated by the wooden poles holding up the lines. Wooden poles are far more hazardous than metal or composite poles because they are prone to rot, woodpeckers and termites love to utilize them for meals and nesting causing holes throughout the posts, and they deteriorate much faster with age.
Typically poles last 30 – 40 years; (Mr. Electric, 2015), but according to Feldman (2017) fifty percent of the power lines in Los Angeles County are 50 years or older and about twenty-seven percent of them have exceeded their 60-year lifespan. Currently, 87,000 poles need replacing, which is estimated to take 40 years – and by then thousands more will need to be replaced, (Reicher, 2017). In Ventura County, such as Ojai (where a major fire has already occurred), woodpeckers damage poles so heavily that the hole-ridden poles have to be replaced every 5 years, (Lima, 1994). Edison has stated: “If we let it go too long, the pole will either fall down or be so deteriorated that it would be impossible for us to climb” (Lima, 1994). Utility poles are often treated with chemicals to prevent bird and insect damage, but these sealants can cause reproductive and nervous system problems (Mr. Electric, 2015) and these solutions are only stop-gap measures (Lima, 1994).
Aging poles are far more likely to catch fire and burn; sparks triggered by power lines hitting branches or other lines can easily ignite a wooden pole. High winds can also pose as a problem to weakened wooden poles. Steel poles lose their integrity with temperatures over 932 degrees Fahrenheit, so even though they are resistant to many of the animal and aging issues, in severe fires, which can reach temperatures of 2,192 degrees Fahrenheit they can lose their ability to hold up the lines (Smith, 2014). However, if these aging poles were replaced by composite poles, this would solve a number of issues – animals would not be able to climb or damage the utility pole components, this material is extremely durable, and these poles can be made hollow allowing for the lines to be inside the poles thus preventing downed power lines and would prevent sparking during high winds or pole impacts caused by vegetation (Kalaga, 2013). These poles also are lightweight, quick to install, and would be ideal in hurricane-damaged cities, ice storm prone regions, and of course, fire prone areas (Kalaga, 2013). These poles have already been tested against wildfire conditions:
An RS pole protected with an RS Fire Shield was embedded in a forest in northern Canada for a controlled burn exercise. The area was ignited to start the controlled forest fire and the fire, with temperatures reaching nearly 1,000 degrees Celsius, engulfed the pole for approximately 30 seconds and spread past it. The RS pole, made of fiberglass and resin, self-extinguished after the fire passed, and the RS Fire Shield, although slightly charred, retained its structural strength and stiffness. (Hoodin, 2019).
I would like to petition the California government to switch from wooden power poles to composite power poles which would lower overall costs for repair and reduce the risk of fire to communities and ecosystems.
Atkinson, W. (2018, November). The link between power lines and wildfires. Retrieved from https://www.ecmag.com/section/systems/link-between-power-lines-and-wildfires
Feldman, J. (2017, October 10). How safe is that wood utility pole in your backyard? Retrieved from https://www.electrocuted.com/2017/10/10/wood-utility-pole-safety/
Hoodin, K. (2019, November 14). RS composite utility pole survives forest fire. Retrieved from http://compositesmanufacturingmagazine.com/2019/11/rs-composite-utility-pole-survives-forest-fire/
Kalaga, S. (2013, October 16). Composite transmission and distribution poles: A new trend. Retrieved from https://www.energycentral.com/c/tr/composite-transmission-and-distribution-poles-new-trend
Lima, C. (1994, May 16). Woodpeckers inflict costly damage upon power poles: Utilities: Edison officials complain that the birds can dramatically carve up the life span of the wooden posts. But avian enthusiasts question the extent of the problem. Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1994-05-16-me-58414-story.html
McFall-Johnsen, M. (2019, November 3). Over 1,500 California fires in the past 6 years - including the deadliest ever - were caused by one company: PG&E. Here's what it could have done but didn't. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/pge caused-california-wildfires-safety-measures-2019-10
Mr. Electric. (2015, September 15). Recognizing the dangers of utility poles. Retrieved from https://mrelectric.com/blog/recognizing-the-dangers-of-utility-poles
Reicher, M. (2017, August 28). DWP lagging behind on replacing old power poles; 87,000 have exceeded their lifespan. Retrieved from https://www.dailynews.com/2014/05/06/dwp-lagging-behind-on-replacing-old-power-poles-87000-have-exceeded-their-lifespan/?clearUserState=true
Smith, S. T. (2014, May 13). The performance of distribution utility poles in wildland fire hazard areas - what we know and don't know. Retrieved from https://woodpoles.org/portals/2/documents/TB_PolesInWildfires.pdf