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  • Writer's pictureDavid Pointing

6 million wooden power poles in Australia - how do we best test them?

One of the innovation projects in the "ENA-API Australian Strategic Technology Program" passed an important milestone in July 2023, when ~30 participants from 12 utilities participated in a 3-day workshop that explored the options for non-destructive testing of timber power poles.

The sessions include presentations and live demonstrations from 8 products and vendors presenting on their systems for NDT of wooden poles. Issues covered included:

· Basic concept of the device and how it works.

· Trial data that supports the recommended application.

· Commercial availability/licensing/purchase/support arrangements.

· Typical scenario for typical utility use.

· Expected timeframe for conducting a routine test and producing a useable result.

· The effects of wood density/species variations on the device and its results.

· The effects of pole attachments/reinforcements, and weather/seasonal effects

· Any other limitations on testing.

· What are the criteria you use to consider a pole as being "safe" and what is the liability you are prepared to accept with the use of the instrument by a Utility.

Feedback from the participants:

"The event was truly exceptional, and I learned so much from the approachable subject matter Experts of our community. Your insights into the latest technologies and developments were both enlightening and thought-provoking. Your willingness to share your experiences and advice was greatly appreciated, and I know that it will be beneficial to me in my own career and for the whole industry", Sherin Ghonim, Evo Energy

"It was an opportunity to see visually what the various demonstrated NDT techniques will be assessed to wrt detection sensitivity and output indication. A key observation was the repeated recognition in the workshop teams and by many of the particular NDT tool proponents that the condition assessment of wood poles by any one NDT method alone is unlikely to be universally comprehensive, and their expressed humility at the complexity of both science and acquired experience interaction intertwined with local knowledge and astute informed local site observation .... Any wonder then it’s a tough task to risk manage 6 million wood poles across Australia?", David Eccles, TasNetworks

Many thanks to Scott Purnell and the team at Essential Energy in Port Macquarie, who hosted the event. Also to the Project Committee, Chaired by Craig Savage from United Energy and the research team from the University of Queensland, led Dr Chandima Ekanayake.

Also to Energy Networks Australia that funded the research (coordinated by Dr Monaaf Al-Falahi) and the API for facilitating the connections between the university teams and the industry partners (coordinated by Dr David Pointing).

ASTP Projects: $200,000 over 2 years for innovation in power

ASTP Projects are short outcome-focused projects targeting industry-defined challenges that are solved with a combination of industry insight and expertise from our university research community, with $200,000 funding over 2-years from the ENA's Asset Management Committee. Information about the ASTP project portfolio and the current NDT project is available from the ENA and questions should be directed to Monaaf Al-Falahi.

If you are an academic and wish to be included in future cycles by the API to connect university researchers to the ASTP projects, please contact Kendall Klingaman (API's Industry & University Partnership Manager).

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