2015 Wood Pole Program Award Winners

Osmose is pleased to announce the winners of its 2015 Wood Pole Management Awards, recognizing outstanding pole inspection and treatment programs and practices.  The four award-winning companies represent the cooperative, municipal, investor-owned utility, and telecommunication markets.

"The Wood Pole Management Awards recognize pole owners who have successfully implemented wood pole inspection and treatment programs that contribute to positive financial, structural reliability, and operational outcomes, including effective risk management and enhanced safety," said Nelson Bingel, Vice President - Product Integration for Osmose.  "These utilities have model programs that not only meet, but exceed regulatory mandates while providing benchmarks for the industry as a whole."

Companies awarded the Wood Pole Management Award have best-in-class programs that utilize a comprehensive inspection process to accurately assess the condition of the pole and evaluate bending capacity.  Remedial treatment(s) are applied to arrest decay and extend the useful life of the pole.  Should the remaining bending capacity of a pole be less than required by code, restoration options are evaluated to rehabilitate or upgrade poles rather than replace them, which ultimately helps to avoid unnecessary cost and delay.

The 2015 winners are: Empire District Electric Company (Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas) in the IOU category, Oklahoma Electric Cooperative in the cooperative category, Florence Utilities (Alabama) in the municipal/government category, and the award for the program with the most significant transformation was presented to CenturyLink.

The Empire District Electric Company transitioned from a program that included treatment of only select poles to a full groundline inspection and treatment program for both transmission and distribution poles.  Poles are treated internally and externally on a 12-year cycle to extend service life, but are patrolled on 4 and 6-year cycles (depending on location).  These patrols include predictive inspections of overhead facilities using infrared (IR) technology to predict problems with connections and equipment so they can be addressed prior to failure.  During groundline inspection, pole strength is evaluated.  Any reject poles identified as restorable are added to the queue for restoration with a steel truss which restores code-mandated strength at a fraction of the cost of replacement.

Oklahoma Electric Cooperative instituted their pole program 34 years ago.  It is a truly comprehensive program, involving inspection, treatment, load estimating, and restoration components.  Inspections are conducted annually on a 10-year cycle utilizing both internal and external preservative treatments to extend pole life.  While at the pole, technicians evaluate the pole's remaining strength.  Technicians also use a mobile load screening tool to identify poles that are overloaded as well as poles that are less than fully loaded, allowing for proper adjustments in the strength requirements.   Poles that fail to meet strength requirements are evaluated for restoration, and any poles deemed restorable go into the queue for trussing to restore code-mandated strength.  As a result of this robust program, OEC typically has a reject rate of 1% or less each year!

City of Florence Electricity Department inspects both transmission and distribution poles on a 10-year cycle utilizing both internal and external preservative treatments to extend pole life.  Florence optimizes their visit to the pole by collecting GPS data and performing minor maintenance items such as installing guy markers, repairing groundwires, and inspecting and exposing buried anchors.   Poles that fail strength evaluation during inspection are classified as rejects and evaluated for restoration.  Restorable rejects are trussed, restoring them to code-mandated strength for substantially less than the cost of replacement.

CenturyLink transitioned from condition-based inspections to a comprehensive inspection, selective treatment, and restoration program in 2014.  Given that CenturyLink's service territory spans more than 30 states and several decay zones, the inspection phase of the program was designed to target the appropriate inspection and treatment type based on pole species, existing decay, and age of the pole.   For thick sapwood species (Southern Pine) the inspections start with a condition-based inspection (visual, sound and bore and soil pull back at groundline) and progress to a full excavate and treatment if decay is present in the pole. For thin sapwood species (Douglas Fir, Cedar) the inspections start with a condition-based inspection (visual, sound and bore) and progress to a partial excavate and treatment, and then proceed to a full excavate and treatment if decay is present in the pole.  All excavated poles are evaluated for strength loss.  Serviceable poles with decay are treated with preservative treatments below groundline and internally as needed to extend the life of the pole.  Defective poles identified as restorable candidates are restored to code-mandated strength with the installation of a steel truss or fiberglass composite repair.  Defective poles that are not candidates for restoration with a truss or fiberglass composite repair are field engineered for replacement (make ready engineering) and routed to the approved line extension contractor or power partner for replacement in the field.  Because the preservative treatments and restoration processes provide a considerable life extension of the pole, CenturyLink can now capitalize inspections that include treatment or restoration, as well as pole replacement projects.

Best-in-class wood pole programs typically result in lower-than-average reject rates over multiple treatment cycles, reduced costs to mitigate at-risk poles, lower replacement volumes, and improved structural reliability and safety of the pole plant.

For questions regarding best-in-class pole management practices, please contact your local Osmose representative or email poleinfo@osmose.com.