Changing a Power Pole

Why electric co-ops replace utility poles By Abby Berry

You probably don’t pay much attention to the utility poles found throughout Graham County Electric Coop’s service territory, but did you know these tall structures are the backbone of our distribution network? Strong, sturdy utility poles ensure a reliable electric system, which is why we routinely inspect the over 800 miles of poles found on our lines. Throughout the year, our crews check poles for decay caused by exposure to the elements. They know which poles are oldest and conduct inspections through a rotational process. Typically, a standard wooden distribution pole is expected to last more than 50 years. Occasionally, poles need to be replaced for other reasons besides decay and old age. Weather disasters, power line relocation and car crashes are potential causes for immediate replacement. When possible, GCEC communicates when and where pole replacements will take place so that you stay informed of where crews will be working. Here is a quick breakdown of how crews replace a utility pole: When a pole needs to be replaced, crews will start the process by digging a hole, typically next to the pole being replaced. The depth of the hole must be 15 percent of the new pole’s height. Next, the new pole must be fitted with bolts, cross arms, insulators, ground wires and arm braces – all of the necessary parts for delivering safe and reliable electricity. Then, crews safely detach the power lines from the old pole. The new pole is then raised and guided carefully into position, and the lines are attached, leaving the new pole to do its job. So, the next time you come across a GCEC crew replacing a pole, use caution and know that this process ensures a more reliable electric system for you, our members.
What's on that pole? Primary wires run on top. Each usually carries 7,200 volts of electricity from a substation; Insulators (made of porcelain or a composite) prevent energized wires from contacting each other on the pole; A crossarm holds power lines, allowing required clearances between lines; The neutral wire acts as a line back to the substation and is tied to ground, balancing the electricity on the system; Sure arrestors protect the transformer from lightning strikes; Transformers convert higher voltage electricity from primary wires to lower voltage for use by consumers; A secondary service drop carries 120/240-volts of electricity to the end user. It has two "hot" wires from the transformer, and a bare neutral wire connected to the ground wire on the pole; Guy wires help stabilize poles. They are also connected to the pole's ground wire; Telephone and cable TV lines are typically the lowest wires; Pole ground wire, running the length of the pole, connects to the neutral wire to complete the circuit inside the transformer. It also directs electricity from lightning safely into the earth; A head-high "birthmark" shows the size of the pole as well as where and when it was made; Coops are responsible for keeping vegetation around poles trimmed to avoid interference with the electric system; 40-foot poles are sunk 6 feet into the ground