McWane Poles
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Utility Evaluates Pole Material for Hardening Initiative

May 29, 2024
In 2021, GRICUA faced severe storms that caused extensive damage to its transmission system, leading it to evaluate and recommend system hardening improvements using more reliable poles.

Gila River Indian Community Utility Authority (GRICUA) was formed in 1998 and consists of 10 substations, 95 miles of 69 kV transmission lines and 425 miles of 12 kV distribution lines in southern Arizona. GRICUA purchases wholesale power from various generating sources and in turn delivers it to over 3,400 customers.

In 2021, GRICUA experienced back-to-back severe monsoons and storms. Winds reached as high as 90 mph, which resulted in the loss of more than 50 poles and extensive damage to their transmission system. After the storm, they convened their engineering team to evaluate the situation and develop an after-action report, which recommended immediate hardening improvements to their system and utilizing poles with greater reliability.

GRICUA conducted an evaluation process of possible solutions and determined ductile iron poles would be the best solution. Upon learning how McWane helped utilities in Key West and in Oklahoma strengthen their systems after similar natural disasters, GRICUA partnered with McWane Poles for its system hardening initiative.

McWane’s flexibility, availability and competitive pricing made it an easy choice for GRICUA. The global supply chain crisis of 2021 was affecting industries everywhere.

McWane, however, is strategically positioned to navigate supply chain issues and were able to deliver poles to GRICUA in 12 weeks, something no other company could provide.

In addition, GRICUA’s engineering team loved the specifications of McWane’s ductile iron poles. The high durability, fire resistance, corrosion resistance, low maintenance, and environmental impact were key factors in GRICUA’s decision.

Because GRICUA did not have previous experience with ductile iron poles, McWane sent a team in the field to ensure GRICUA had everything it needed to be ready for the next weather event. McWane reviewed operational experiences with other clients to ensure GRICUA has the latest best-practices.

Since installation in 2022, GRICUA has seen its reliability metrics significantly improve. The support of the community has also been very successful. In meetings with key stakeholders, GRICUA has received unanimous positive feedback about the new transmission lines.

When utilities need new poles, time is of the essence, and McWane was the only supplier able to hit its lead time, and the support provided to GRICUA was responsive, dependable and flexible.

In addition, ductile iron poles will save GRICUA money over the lifespan of the product. The strength, durability, and highly resistant properties of ductile iron gives McWane’s poles an expected service life of more than 75 years. Ductile iron has a service life comparable to steel, and twice as long as wood. And because ductile iron is corrosion-resistant, unlike weather steel, and has a low-maintenance requirement, McWane Poles have a lower life-cycle cost than steel or concrete alternatives.

Gila River Indian Community Utility Authority (GRICUA) Director of Operations Chris Miller said, “Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 supply chain, McWane Poles stood as an inspiration of consistency and dependability. Their open communication and unwavering support created a strong partnership between us. Together, we weathered the storm and built something great."

About the Author

McWane Poles

McWane Poles is a product line of McWane, Inc. McWane is a family-owned company that has been serving customers in the iron and ductile iron industries since 1921.

McWane Poles was conceived in 2007 with the research and development of a tapered pole design for centrifugal casting of ductile iron. In early 2008, McWane Poles was born. The first ductile iron pole was manufactured in Ohio, and after casting molds were commissioned and extensive third-party testing was completed, McWane Poles were taken to market. Today, McWane ductile iron poles are installed in 42 states and over 400 utilities.

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