Reducing the risks of wooden power poles

Horizon Power is working with eight companies from around Australia and New Zealand to undertake rigorous testing of their wooden poles.

Most of the poles tested are in the Esperance region in southern Western Australia (WA).

Horizon Power has a combination of wooden and steel poles in its service area, with its 25,000 wooden poles “much less than many other utilities around the country”.

According to Horizon Power’s standards and performance evaluation manager, Justin Murphy, the eight companies are using different testing methodology to determine the integrity of the wooden poles.

These methodologies will then be evaluated to determine which delivers the best value to Horizon Power, with the successful one chosen and integrated into Horizon Power’s business.

Mr Murphy said the work was taking place because of incidents with wooden pole failure that have occurred in WA over recent years.

“As a result we are rigorously reviewing testing of our poles and we will achieve a better understanding of the strength of our poles and will be able to track their performance over time,” he said.

Horizon Power will replace the wood poles with steel poles as they are more robust. Horizon Power still needs to manage wood poles for approximately another 25 years.

According to Horizon Power, the management of powerlines is one of the biggest issues that energy utilities face.

Horizon Power’s asset management planning process has established an effective and efficient means of making Horizon Power’s systems fit for purpose.

“A key focus of that plan is how to better manage power poles and to reduce the unassisted pole failure rate, which is the rate at which poles fall over of their own accord, without being hit by vehicles or other objects,” Horizon Power said.

The unassisted wood pole failure rate for Horizon Power stands at 6.2 per 10,000 poles and is an area in which the utility wants to improve.

The findings of the field trials will be significant for other utilities which manage many more wooden poles, for example in the south west interconnected system in WA, there are more than 700,000 wooden poles.

In WA, regulations require that poles be reinforced when their age reaches 25 years. At 25 years, if they are reinforced with steel to reduce the risk of them falling over, they have another 15 years – so a total lifespan of 40 years.

The results from the testing will be available in May.