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Posted on November 8, 2017

Facts about PG&E Pole Management and Maintenance

PG&E’s electric system is designed to deliver safe, reliable, affordable and clean energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California.

  • PG&E is responsible for the safe and efficient management of 2.4 million power poles throughout its 70,000 square-mile service area.
  • PG&E has a comprehensive and rigorous maintenance and inspection program for our power poles involving regular patrols, visual inspections, intrusive inspections — all designed to identify safety or reliability issues.

Utility Pole Facts

  • Poles in PG&E’s service area average 39 years of age and typically stand 40 to 45 feet high. However, in some areas they can be up to 80 feet tall.
  • The most common type of power pole, referred to as Grade A Construction Pole, is designed to meet a rigorous safety factor that results in the pole being four times stronger than specified.
    • Most poles are made of Douglas Fir, although some are derived from Western Red Cedar.
  • Many of the poles are jointly owned between PG&E and other companies, such as AT&T. Joint owners are members of the Northern California Joint Pole Association.  Any added load to joint poles must meet the strength requirements set forth by California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) General Order (GO) 95.
  • For areas below 3,000 feet elevation (light loading districts), CPUC GO 95 establishes a minimum standard that poles must withstand of 8 pounds of wind pressure per square foot of cylindrical surface. This regulation equates to a wind speed of 56 miles per hour.  PG&E lines are designed and constructed to meet or exceed this minimum requirement.

PG&E’s Pole Patrol and Inspection Program

  • In accordance with CPUC regulations, PG&E performs annual patrols for its poles in urban environments and every two years for poles located in rural environments. These patrols are performed to visually identify safety and reliability issues such as structural hazards or problems.
  • A detailed inspection of  poles and associated equipment is conducted every five years (for facilities located underground, these inspections are done every three years).  In addition to the requirements of a patrol, which are identification of obvious structural hazards or problems, detailed inspections identify other potential GO 95 violations. Minor repairs are also performed during detailed inspections.  Both patrols and detailed inspections identify and address safety or reliability issues with our power poles (leaning, potentially overloaded, deteriorated or damaged, etc.).

PG&E’s Pole Test and Treat Program

  • Working with a team of contractors, PG&E’s Pole Test and Treat program oversees the routine inspection of approximately 240,000 wooden poles every year.
  • CPUC GO 165 requires that each pole is intrusively tested at a minimum of every 20 years; however, instead, for the vast majority of our poles, this test is performed about every 10 years.
  • To perform this test, PG&E digs down about 20 inches to expose part of the pole to conduct a detailed visual inspection of the pole.  Holes are bored and wood probed to evaluate the integrity of the wood.  A preservative is also applied to extend the life of the pole
  • When a pole is tested and found not to meet minimum requirements, a process is followed that may include performing pole loading calculations and/or repairing, reinforcing, or replacing the pole as necessary.
  • PG&E uses a comprehensive database to manage these multiple patrol and inspection schedules of our 2.4 million poles.

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