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Serial Number 0001

I suspect many of us have memories of events in our lives where we experienced “the first time I ever used …” something.

In my lifetime, my list includes: Push-buttons, portable and cell phones, color television, television remote control, computers, electronic calculators, a car with an automatic transmission, microwave oven, bank ATM, VHS (and Beta) movies, self-propelled lawn mower, automatic garage door opener, email and sliced bread.

Okay, you got me on sliced bread … that has been around my whole life, but you get the picture. I am old enough to have experienced many ‘new’ things.

In most cases, these were adopted by society somewhat slowly. Human nature being what it is, people often require a little time before these radical, newfangled doohickeys are widely accepted.

We are often reluctant to use serial number 0001 (SN: 0001) of anything.

I have also observed the same measured approach to accepting new things in the electric utility industry. As industry professionals, I believe we historically have taken a conservative approach to adopting new technologies. Yet, eventually new products and new ways of doing things achieve critical mass, and they become the norm.

In my career this list would include: Computer design programs, polymeric insulators, tubular steel poles, laminated wood poles, weathering steel, fiberglass guy strain insulators, fiberglass structural components, ‘T2’ conductors, bundled conductors, fiber-optic shield wire conductors, electronic surveying technologies and fire-resistant clothing. You may have other things on your list, but live long enough, and you WILL have a list.

The recent American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Substation and Transmission Structures Conference in Branson, MO provided utility professionals a number of examples of ‘serial number 1’ projects. For engineers that like to think ‘outside the box’, hearing these examples can be energizing and tend to encourage the industry toward more widespread use of new materials and techniques.

American Electric Power (AEP) has developed a BOLD (Breakthrough Overhead Line Design) transmission structure. This is a simple, low-profile aesthetically pleasing structure. It looks like nothing anyone has ever used. SN: 0001

The industry is actually sponsoring a competition to conceptualize aesthetically pleasing new structure designs. This is new to the United States. SN: 0001

BC Hydro in Canada has developed a new family of 230 kV transmission structures that are made of Fiber Reinforced Polymers (FRP) aka fiberglass. SN: 0001

Many utilities are increasingly using drone technology for structural inspection. SN: 0001

Micropiles are a relatively new foundation system. These are increasingly used in areas that pose very difficult access for traditional foundation construction methods. SN: 0001

Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is designing fall-protection features into both their existing and new lattice tower standard structures. SN: 0001

This is just a sampling of the exciting and interesting new technologies and techniques being used in the electric industry today. Imagine what new SN: 0001’s we will hear about in Atlanta at the ASCE ETS conference November 4-8, 2018!

I’d say more but I need to get back to work on my new drone concept. It will be powered by a flux capacitor and will have self-lubricating muffler bearings. SN: 0001.

About the author

Marlon is our account executive in the Power market. He has more than 35 years of experience with all aspects of planning, design and construction of 12.5 kV-345 kV distribution and transmission systems, including right-of-way, design, regulatory coordination, public information meetings, public testimony and project management. With an extensive background in power transmission and distribution, Marlon brings a wide variety of knowledge in discussing the energy industry and the issues it faces. From education of future engineers to critical infrastructure analysis, he offers a unique perspective on the industry and where it's headed.