Custom Pultrusions For The Utilities Sector

by Tencom Ltd.

 Pultrusions For The Utilities Sector

As the demand for pultruded products grows, the utilities industry is finding an even greater need for fiber reinforced polymers (FRPs). 

This is because the list of benefits to using pultruded fiberglass products is long and includes:

  • weight
  • portability
  • durability
  • reliability
  • cost-efficiency
  • eco-friendly

Custom Pultrusions

When you think of utility applications, the first thing that probably comes to mind is electricity. For decades, wood materials have been used to build power poles that run electricity throughout cities, suburbs, and even remote places.

This was the first step in making sure that everyone had access to electricity. However, over the years, people have begun to realize the downside of using wood materials to build such important power structures.

Conventional wooden poles can hold up electrical power lines for a period of time. However, issues arise whenever there is a natural disaster, severe weather, and natural decay over time.

Inclement weather can cause wood power poles to fall, which not only knocks out the electricity, but is also dangerous to drivers and pedestrians.

pultrusion capabilities guide

By replacing traditional wood poles with FRP poles, the poles can withstand damage even in the event of severe weather.

For example, from 2011 to 2015, a series of hurricanes in the Grand Bahamas took out approximately 2,700 wood power poles. However, what was left standing in the aftermath was the 450 FRP composite poles that had been recently installed.

Another compelling example can be seen in the Baja Peninsula of Mexico. Hurricane Odile hit the peninsula after every fifth wood electric pole had been replaced with a FRP pole.

The result was that all of the FRP poles were still standing after the hurricane had subsided and had taken down most of the wooden poles in its wake.

Further, in 2017, approximately 170,000 residents of Rochester, New York lost electricity after a massive windstorm.

The New York State Public Service Commission and local utility service providers agreed to replace wooden utility pole with durable FRP poles. The budget was set at $1.25 million, with the initial costs being less than the maintenance cost of wood poles.

FRP poles are also more reliable and durable than wood poles. Sun exposure, moisture, chemicals, and even insects can cause natural wood products to rot, warp, and decay over time.

Wood decomposes quickly and cannot be used in the construction of utility structures without the aid of chemical coatings. These chemical preservatives are applied to the wood to make it resistant to corrosion.

The major downside to this is that the chemical coatings are toxic to the environment. Once the wood pole is discarded in a landfill, those toxic chemicals will seep into the ground. This does not happen with FRP poles.

Utility poles made from composite materials are resistant to water, heat, impact, insect, and corrosion of any kind.

There is no need to add chemical coatings to the exterior of a FRP utility pole. This extends the lifespan of the poles and cuts down on maintenance expenses.

Other Utility Applications

There are a lot of building elements that go into supplying residents with power, water, and gas. Many of these elements are made of wood or metal materials.

They can be easily replaced by FRP products. Some of these building pieces include:

  • cross arms
  • grating
  • fencing
  • plates
  • rods
  • bars
  • support beams
  • catwalks
  • handrails
  • ladders
  • access ways
  • stairways
  • transformer housing units

While metal is serving its purpose as a hardier material than wood for structural supports, it isn’t the best.

Metals such as aluminum and steel can succumb over time to rust, corrosion, and even heat damage. Pultruded products do not warp, bend, disintegrate or expand.

Metal can also be very dangerous for construction and utility workers when they need to walk across its surface as these can be slippery. Walkways, access ways, and catwalks made of FRPs are safer to walk across due to their non-slip surfaces.

Portable, Light weight and Easy To Transport

Portability is a major issue with conventional building materials such as wood, aluminum, and steel. These traditional materials are very heavy, and when they have to be transported in one piece, they can be very heavy. For instance, wood utility poles are extremely tall and heavy.

Typically made of pine lumber, these poles are about 30 feet tall, and weigh approximately 720 pounds each. It would take several large trucks to transport replacement utility poles made of wood.

However, utility poles made of pultruded products can be transported in lightweight segments measuring about 13-feet in length. This significantly cuts down on the weight, and it makes each pole easy to assemble and install on-site.

Even though pultruded products are lightweight, this does not decrease their strength or rigidity. Pultruded products are stronger than steel, and they can withstand hard impact with no damage.

Pultruded products also maintain their structural integrity for more than 15 years with little to no maintenance required. With a higher tensile strength, a longer lifespan, portability and transportability, pultruded products are an excellent choice for the utility sector .

How Tencom Helps Our Customers

Recently, Tencom was contracted by an electrical company to fabricate fiberglass poles known as “hot line sticks” for their workers. These sticks are used on high voltage electrical power lines in different capacities.

To create pultruded products, bundles of reinforced polymer fibers are pulled through a liquid resin bath, formed, and cured into a specific shape. During this process, liquid colors can be added for customization.

These pultruded products can be shaped into small or large pieces that are extremely lightweight and easy to install.

It is important that these poles do not conduct electricity, so as to protect workers from shock and also to avoid damaging the power lines.

This is a specialized process that only a few manufacturers in the country are able to manufacture. The pole is composed of vinyl ester resin and special electrical glass.

This custom profile was formulated and pultruded using Tencom's proprietary techniques, holding tolerances of ±0.030” on the diameter.

The high voltage hot stick is available in lengths of 3’ to 20’, with thicknesses of 1”, 1-1/4”, and 1-1/2” in diameter. Built to withstand 100 KV per foot, it is durable as well as impervious to moisture.

Wrapping Up Pultruded Products in the Utilities Sector

Utility companies across the country can cut down on maintenance and repair costs by replacing wooden utility poles and other utility structural pieces with FRPs.

If you would like to learn more about Tencom and our custom manufacturing capabilities, request a quote today.

tencom pultrusion capabilities and products