Ageing wooden power poles increase risk of fires

Mar 13, 2012

Research at RMIT University has proven conclusively that wooden poles used for electricity distribution deteriorate with age and that their electrical performance worsens over time.

Fires caused by leakage current in wooden poles used for electricity distribution are a major problem for power distribution companies in Australia and globally.

Research by Dr Sachin Pathak, in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, investigated the behaviour of leakage current on wooden structures of various ages.

"My study proved conclusively that leakage current (electrical) performance of wooden structures deteriorates with age," he said.

"Given that 70 per cent of the 8.5 million wooden poles in service as part of the electricity distribution infrastructure in Australia are over 35 years old, these findings are significant."

Leakage current flow happens where current leaks through the insulator, due to deposits of salt spray, sand or on the surface, under extended dry weather conditions with light rain and .

Excessive activity of generates enough heat to ignite ageing wooden structures, particularly where there is contact between the wood and of the power pole.

The research also suggests the need for power utilities to consider shorter inspection cycles, particularly for wooden structures near the coast, where tailor-made inspection programs would prove more effective for maintenance.

"In the wake of recent catastrophic bushfires in Victoria and Western Australia, my findings will assist the assessment of the electrical performance of wooden structures used for power distribution in greater depth," Dr Pathak, who works for Energex, a company in south-east Queensland, said.

"They will also give power utilities a far greater understanding of the role of ageing wooden structures and will assist in developing cost-effective asset maintenance and replacement programs. Ultimately, this will lead to less power pole fires."

This ongoing problem is a major worry for distribution companies, especially during Australia's hot, dry summers.

"I hope my recommendations not only reduce the number of wooden pole fires, but also help to save lives and millions of dollars in the process," Dr Pathak said.

Explore further: Technology and data analytics should transform municipal government, professors say

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Electricity blackouts: A hot summer topic

Aug 09, 2006

It is a common misperception that blackouts are caused by power shortages, but in any given year, about 90 percent of the power outages that customers experience are due to problems with the local distribution ...

Arsenic in playgrounds nothing to worry about: study

May 20, 2010

Pressure treated wooden playground structures do not live up to the bad reputation they have earned as being harmful to children, according to the findings of a new University of Alberta study.

Termites get the vibe on what tastes good

Mar 20, 2007

Researchers from CSIRO and UNSW@ADFA have shown that termites can tell what sort of material their food is made of, without having to actually touch it. The findings may lead to improvements in the control of feeding termites. ...

Recommended for you

Facebook sues law firms, claims fraud

7 hours ago

Facebook is suing several law firms that represented a man who claimed he owned half of the social network and was entitled to billions of dollars from the company and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

IBM 3Q disappoints as it sheds 'empty calories'

7 hours ago

IBM disappointed investors Monday, reporting weak revenue growth again and a big charge to shed its costly chipmaking division as the tech giant tries to steer its business toward cloud computing and social-mobile ...

User comments : 0