5 Questions with Ming Qian on our 2018 Wood Pole Maintenance Program

May 03, 2018

Ming Qian Featured

At 1.2 million and counting, there are more power poles in Saskatchewan than people. Because most poles are made of wood and were installed in the 1950s, we’re kept on our toes continually inspecting, maintaining and replacing poles all around the province. To tackle this huge job, we run the Distribution Wood Pole Maintenance Program. Project Administrator Ming Qian fills us in on the details.

  1. What is this program all about?

    The Distribution Wood Pole Maintenance Program is one of the many ways we’re managing our infrastructure. We’re currently in year six of our 10-year plan with the goal of inspecting about 10 per cent of our total wood poles each year. Each year, we target specific areas of the province and spend some time inspecting and extending the life of the poles in that area. We follow that up with targeted replacement, reinforcement or line rebuilds in subsequent years.

  2. Where is the program happening this year?

    We’ve hired Central Pole Inspection & Maintenance Inc. to perform the inspections and life extension maintenance this year. They’ll be working in:

     - Saskatoon area, including Martensville, Dalmeny and Warman (May to July)
     - Weyburn and area (May to August)
     - City of Saskatoon (August to September)
     - Preeceville and area, including Sturgis and Norquay (August to October)
     - Meadow Lake and area (August to October)

    This work can be affected by weather and crop conditions, so the schedule may change by a couple of weeks.

  3. What are some of the benefits of this program to customers and the environment?

    Over 40 per cent of our customer’s monthly bills go towards renewing our aging infrastructure, so it’s important that we work efficiently. Extending the life of a power pole is much more cost effective than replacing it. The program also extends the life of our wooden power poles, which lowers the stress on our forests and reduces the number of damaged poles that end up in landfills.

  4. Why do we use wood for these poles?

    There are a few reasons why wood is a great material for power poles:

    - Power line technicians can climb wood poles to conduct maintenance and customer service related activities.
    - Wood costs less than other kinds of power pole materials (such as steel and concrete).
    - Wood pole strength is well understood and deterioration mechanisms are predictable.
    - The poles have a small environmental impact since they are organic.

  5. What are some of the signs that a pole is at risk?

    Obvious red flags are poles that have extensive mechanical damage and poles split from lighting strikes. But we’re also looking for signs of decay in the wood and carpenter ant infestation. Where we can, we repair or reinforce the pole to extend its life and keep it in service. If we can’t repair or reinforce it, the pole will be replaced.

Quotables:

"We’re currently in year six of our 10-year plan with the goal of inspecting about 10 per cent of our total wood poles each year."

"Over 40 per cent of our customer’s monthly bills go towards renewing our aging infrastructure, so it’s important that we work efficiently."

"Where we can, we repair or reinforce the pole to extend its life and keep it in service. If we can’t repair or reinforce it, the pole will be replaced.”

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