The GB Electricity Distribution Operators rely on a tried and tested timber material to support distribution overhead lines, however, the sustainability of the forests these trees grow in, is shrinking. These trees rely on a slow growing environment and take around 120 years to grow to ensure they are of a suitable strength.
While poles fabricated from engineered materials meet the current requirements of the national wood pole design standards they are cost prohibitive; one preferred material for example is composite which is currently in the region of 5 to 7 times more expensive than the equivalent wood pole variant. It can be justified to assume their cost would reduce should they be used in high volumes, but with the size of the GB market compared with continental markets being quite small, volume-related cost efficiencies would only be met if GB as a whole adopted common standards for both pole specification and line design.
In order to overcome these challenges we will:
Previous projects focussed on the operational practicalities, physical strengths and ability to use existing fittings with the alternative materials; they did not look at the design approach that is currently used for wood poles and producing a standard specification for their use against the same design approach, which this project aims to do in its first phase.
Phase 1 of this project will specifically look into a specification that can be used across all UK Networks for engineered pole products.