Ergon has almost a million wooden power poles spread across Queensland, made from a range of hardwoods.
The poles have served the network well for years. However, the method used to test the structural strength of the wooden poles could soon be revolutionised.
For the past 15 years, Ergon has tested the integrity of poles by drilling small holes into the poles, and digging around the base of any pole over 15 years old. But maintenance workers are doing this on 250,000 poles a year, leaving some poles with several holes due to previous rounds of the inspection cycle.
In an attempt to find a less destructive testing system, Ergon is conducting a five-week trial in Far North Queensland to see if newer technologies can determine the structural integrity of the poles, without damaging them.
Ergon maintenance program manager lines Ben Sanderson said acoustic waves, sonar, ultrasonic, radar and even micro-drilling are all being tested.
“We’re analysing results from poles in drier areas of the region and also from parts that get much more rainfall,” he said.
“What we are looking at achieving is the same safety and reliability but with a financial saving and if we can get that, then that’s a good result for Ergon and our customers.”
At present Ergon is spending $150 million dollars a year on asset inspection and maintenance of its poles and wires network.
“If there’s a better way to test, then it makes smart business sense for us to look at it,” Mr Sanderson said.