T&D World Magazine
Wooden Pole Inspection Program Enhances Reliability at Penelec

Wooden Pole Inspection Program Enhances Reliability at Penelec

Overall, Penelec crews plan to inspect more than 41,000 of its 493,000 wooden poles in 2015 for signs of wear, insect infestation or damage from motor vehicle accidents.

To help enhance the reliability of its system, Pennsylvania Electric Co., a FirstEnergy Corp. utility, expects to replace or repair approximately 900 wooden utility poles this year as part of the company's annual inspection program.

Overall, Penelec crews plan to inspect more than 41,000 of its 493,000 wooden poles in 2015 for signs of wear, insect infestation or damage from motor vehicle accidents.

A standard 40-foot wooden distribution pole typically is expected to last more than 50 years.  The most common utility pole is made from a Southern Yellow Pine tree and costs about $400.

"Penelec's utility poles are the backbone of our distribution network that delivers electricity to homes and businesses in our service area," said Scott Wyman, regional president, Penelec.  "By conducting inspections and maintenance on our poles we help enhance service reliability for our customers.  While certainly durable, these poles are subject to damage from severe weather, falling trees, and traffic accidents, and periodically need to be replaced or repaired."

Typically, specialized contractors perform the pole inspections.  As part of the process, a visual inspection is completed, along with inspecting the pole to determine if the interior is sound.  Poles also can be reinforced rather than replaced.  One of the most common reinforcement techniques is to snug a C-shaped steel beam against the pole, jackhammer the beam into the ground, and secure it to the pole with tight, metal bands.

All wooden poles throughout the 31-county Penelec service territory are inspected on a 12-year cycle.  Inspections began in January and will continue through summer, with the remaining pole replacements and repairs scheduled to be completed during the fall.

Year-to-date, Penelec has inspected more than 25,000 wooden poles in and around the following communities:

  • Altoona – 2,730
  • Brookville – 816
  • Ebensburg – 278
  • Dubois – 43
  • Indiana – 766
  • Erie – 2,681
  • Johnstown – 2,097
  • Somerset – 1,213
  • Knox – 2,895
  • Shippensburg – 238
  • Oil City – 392
  • Meadville – 20
  • Bradford – 1,115
  • Mansfield – 839
  • Montrose – 1,735
  • Punxsutawney – 209
  • Dry Run – 1,499
  • Sayre – 2,927
  • Towanda – 1,655
  • Tunkhannock – 635
  • Warren – 1,334
  • Westfield – 11
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