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The markets: Utility infrastructure (2011)

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 As natural insulators with high dielectric strength, fiberglass composites revolutionized the handling of electricity when they first replaced wood and metal in 1959. Today, they're also replacing steel cores in high-voltage transmission lines and helping to regulate power flow on the electric grid.


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Utilities in the U.S. and elsewhere are working with composite suppliers to take advantage of fiberglass for power transmission towers, distribution poles and cross-arms as well as the aluminum conductor cables they support. Pultruded and filament wound composite utility poles and cross-arms are overcoming buyer resistance as electric power companies employ them primarily as replacements for aging wood poles in remote and/or extremely humid locations. In composite-reinforced aluminum conductor (CRAC) cables, the traditional steel strength members are replaced with a pultruded continuous-fiber core, which is expected to reduce weight and increase power-transmission efficiency by 200 percent. Because CRAC cabling weighs less than steel-cored cable, it is expected to be an attractive alternative for upgrading power lines: An increased number of cables can be hung from each existing tower, increasing power transmission capability without the huge expense of erecting new towers or obtaining additional rights-of-way.


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