VEA: New system strengthens poles, saves money

Valley Electric Association has found a way to strengthen power poles to carry the heavier load of the fiber-optic cable for member-owners.

Earlier this year, Valley tried out a new pole reinforcing system that can safely save VEA thousands of dollars.

The Pole Reclassification System is made by Laminated Wood Systems.

“Basically, we have a pole that will be overloaded because of the fiber-optics,” said Robert Ingalls of Laminated Wood Systems. “What we are doing is adding a two-piece steel system.”

The system is a patented ground-line reinforcement system, he said.

The system drives steel 6 feet into the earth with an air-powered hammer to reinforce the pole.

The process is going faster than expected – from one hour per pole to 38 minutes.

A reinforced pole eliminates the need to replace poles with sturdier, larger-class poles. In most cases, the reinforcement steel can be installed while the line remains in service.

While mostly used to carry the added weight of fiber, older poles also can be refurbished by the reclassification system. In some cases, the life of a pole can be extended 20 years.

“We are doing what we need to do to save members money,” said Kristin Mettke, executive vice president, engineering and compliance. “Another thing with this system is it will decrease the need to put linemen in the energized hot zone, and so it increases the safety of the linemen. The first poles were a test demonstration to see if it would work on VEA’s system.”

Mettke said the scope of the work is substantial.

“We have hundreds … of poles in the Pahrump area that may need reinforcing,” Mettke said. At $10,000 per pole, that can add up very fast. “The PRS (Pole Reclassification System) saves time, too, and can be installed at rate of about 10 poles a day. The cost savings is roughly $9,000 per pole.”

Vern Hee is a content and copy writer with Valley Electric Association.

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