2014 Wood Pole Program Award Winners

Osmose is pleased to announce the winners of its 2014 Wood Pole Management Awards, recognizing outstanding pole inspection and treatment programs and practices.  The five award-winning companies represent the cooperative, municipal, and investor-owned utility markets.

"The Wood Pole Management Awards recognize utilities 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 Strategy 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 below-grade 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 2014 winners are: Cleco Power (Louisiana), Florida Power & Light, Huntsville Utilities (Alabama), Sam Houston Electric Cooperative (Texas), and South Central Indiana REMC. 

Cleco Power inspects poles on an 8-year cycle and applies both internal and external remedial preservatives to extend the life of the poles.  Poles deemed rejects based on strength loss are evaluated to determine if they are candidates for restoration versus replacement.  Cleco optimizes its visit to the pole by addressing minor maintenance items including guy markers and groundwire repairs during the inspection process.

Florida Power & Light (FPL) - FPL's pole program is a truly comprehensive program, involving inspection, treatment, and restoration components.  Inspections are conducted annually on an 8-year cycle and are prioritized based on reliability factors and the presence of critical infrastructure.  The treatment process includes the application of both internal and external remedial preservatives.  While at the pole, technicians evaluate the pole's remaining strength.   Poles that fail strength evaluation are classified as rejects and are immediately evaluated for restoration.  Restorable rejects go into the queue for trussing and non-restorable rejects go into the queue for replacement.  In accordance with FPSC mandates which require pole loading assessments, field technicians use a mobile load screening tool identify poles that are overloaded as well as poles that are less than fully loaded, allowing for proper adjustments in the strength requirements.  Based on load calculations and other factors such as the pole's remaining strength, overloaded poles are either scheduled for an engineered upgrade using a tapered truss that upgrades the pole by up to three classes, or are scheduled for replacement with a larger pole. 

Huntsville Utilities inspects poles on an 8-year cycle, applying and an external remedial treatment and fumigants to protect against decay.  Huntsville Utilities leverages its visit to the pole by having technicians attend to minor maintenance items including installation of guy markers, groundwire repair and exposing buried anchor eyes as well as conducting an attachment survey and collecting GPS points.  They also make note of larger maintenance needs that require attention such as decayed or split tops, woodpecker holes, blown lightening arrestors, and chipped insulators for maintenance crews to repair.  Technicians collect vital information used to determine if rejected poles are candidates for restoration.  Poles deemed restorable are placed in the queue for restoration with a steel truss that restores poles to code-mandated strength.

Sam Houston Electric Cooperative's pole program includes comprehensive inspection with both external and internal remedial treatments on a 10-year cycle.  Sam Houston EC began its program in 1977 which means it is currently in its 5th re-cycle!  Since completion of the first cycle, Sam Houston EC has consistently had a reject rate of less than 2%.  Poles identified during inspection as rejects are evaluated for restoration.  Those that can be rehabilitated are trussed to restore them to code-mandated strength for substantially less than the cost of pole replacement.

South Central Indiana REMC has been inspecting and treating poles on a 10-year cycle for approximately 25 years.  The treatment regime involves the application of both internal and external remedial treatments to extend the life of the poles.  As a result, South Central Indiana experiences a predictable average reject rate of less than 2% each year (0.6% in 2014)!

In addition, DTE Energy and Wise Electric Cooperative (Texas) were recognized as having programs with the most significant improvement year over year.

DTE Energy transitioned from a distribution wood pole inspection program that utilized sonic testing and limited pole restoration to a partial excavate inspection that includes a robust restoration effort.  DTE strives to identify all restorable rejects and subsequently rehabilitate them in order to reduce the backlog of poles requiring replacement, significantly reducing pole change-out costs.

Wise Electric Cooperative upgraded their inspection program from line patrol/visual to a far more comprehensive inspection program that includes excavation, strength evaluation, and application of remedial treatment to arrest decay and prolong the life of the pole.  Wise's program also includes a predictive component.  Equipment poles and junction poles with jumpers are scanned with an infrared (IR) camera.  IR inspection is used as a diagnostic tool to identify conditions that can cause outages or equipment damage before it occurs.

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

For questions regarding best-in-class wood pole management practices, please contact your local Osmose representative or email [email protected]