Composite utility poles taking a stand in tough environments

Composite utility pole manufacturer Duratel works with customer Ameren Utilities to place poles in a remote area of Missouri; composite poles ease installation and minimize maintenance.

Composite utility pole manufacturer Duratel (Chicago, Ill., USA) reports that it has worked with customer Ameren Utilities (St. Louis, Mo., USA) on a unique project in the Pilot Knob region of Ameren's Missouri service territory. Ameren was faced with a remote stretch of distribution lines near the town of Pilot Knob, Mo., that needed to be replaced. The problem: existing poles were situated in a hard to reach area, on an extreme rocky slope that made conventional installation, replacement and maintenance difficult to accomplish.

"We considered many possibilities for this project," said Matt Jolani, Standards Transmission and Distribution design engineer for Ameren. "The environment made it difficult to locate the new poles. The slope and rocks made it impossible to drill using our existing equipment, and blasting was out of the question."

Installing standard wood poles in the existing location would have been too costly, time-consuming and ultimately made any resulting maintenance prohibitive. When Jolani contacted Duratel, team engineers began working to design a solution. The result was a secure, safe, customized steel base plate with a reinforced core that fit inside Duratel's hollow pole design and attached to the rock face using standard anchor bolts. The lightweight, durable Duratel poles were transported to the site and installed without heavy machinery.

"We have always been an innovator in the utility pole business," said Don Williams, managing director of Duratel. "From the beginning, our company has constantly sought out methods to improve the old ways of doing business in the utility sector, and even today we are looking forward to what we need to do to be competitive in this ever-changing marketplace."

"We were very pleased with the results," Jolani said. "From the initial request, the design phase, delivery and installation, Duratel exceeded our expectations with this project. It's nice to have a relationship with a company willing to work with our people toward a common goal."

After this initial installation, Ameren examined its need for other specialty applications which allowed Duratel the opportunity to highlight the benefits and versatility of composites.

Woodpeckers and wetlands are a persistent problem for traditional wood utility poles and can critically damage poles, requiring costly and time-consuming repairs or even replacement. Duratel composites are resistant to pests, bugs, rot and decay. The maintenance-free poles are resilient to extreme weather conditions and are the ideal solution for swamp or marshy areas of the country.

"Knowing that we won't be back in 5 years with the same type of woodpecker damage is a great long-range cost savings," said Kevin Kuper, construction supervisor. "My crews have installed poles in areas prone to this type of damage and are encouraged to have a product that can survive in these environments."