Behold, the lowly utility pole

Posted7/11/2013 5:30 AM

Ah, the ubiquitous wooden utility pole.

They get taken for granted, until a storm or a car knocks one down.

Of what are they made? What do they cost? How long do they last?

According to the Batavia Electrical Division:

• Poles range from 40 to 90 feet, depending on the load they are carrying. The majority in Batavia are 40-foot poles for 12.5 kilovolt distribution lines. The bigger poles are used where there are multiple circuits and for 34.5 kilovolt transmission lines.

• They weigh 1,695 pounds to 6,585 pounds.

• Besides electricity, many of them also bear Comcast and AT&T utility lines.

• The depth they are set is 10 percent of the pole length, plus 2 feet. So a 40-foot pole is set in a 6-foot hole, and is surrounded by compacted gravel.

• Batavia's are made of southern yellow pine.

• The city hopes to get 40 to 50 years out of a pole.

• Cost: From $350 to $1,800. That's just the pole. Add in labor and equipment costs, and it can cost as much as $3,000 to replace a pole that has been knocked down by, say, a storm or a car.

And why not bury the transmission and distribution lines? Cost.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average cost nationwide of converting from overhead to underground distribution lines, in a suburban area, is more than $2 million per mile.

Burying transmission lines costs up to $12 million per mile, according to the Edison Electric Institute report "Out of Sight, Out of Mind 2012."

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