The transportation of one of the world’s most essential commodities is constantly taking place right above our heads. Almost anywhere in the world, you can step outside and see power lines, but how safe are those lines? Are they thoroughly checked often enough? As the world’s electrical needs increase so does the number of power lines required to meet those needs. In the United States alone, there are more than 5.5 million miles of local distributions lines and more than 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, according to Scientific America.
Dangers of Unchecked Power Lines
Power lines that do not receive regular checks can pose a risk of injury or even death to the general public. Every year, numerous power lines are downed due to causes varying from falling trees to broken or damaged components. If power lines and the area surrounding them are checked properly and often enough, it is easy to identify and tend to trees that are dead or have dangerous foliage as well as defects in components, especially when inspections take place aerially. Most power line electrocutions occur when structures or building are built too close to existing power lines. Like the other issues, regular checks could easily identify hazards and prevent most, if not all, of these mishaps.
Methods of Inspection
Right now, most power line inspections take place on foot and require individuals to inspect power lines from the ground level. This method of inspection is extremely slow, remember there are more than 5.5 million lines of local distribution lines in the US alone, and subject to human error. Due to expansive amounts of power lines to check, most power line operators perform inspections on set schedules. This means that most operators set a time frame, often five years in the US, and only perform inspections on individual lines once during that period. New technology has, however, modernized these processes and can provide unprecedented amounts of accurate data at much faster rates. The issue lies in the fact that very few companies are using the available technology, and still rely heavily on the outdated method of inspecting power lines on foot.
State of Power Lines
Recently, the international aerial power line inspection boutique, Laserpas found lines built in 1955 that were in much better condition than others built in 1985. Laserpas’s data confirms that it is important for power lines to have regular, thorough inspections performed as the rate at which power lines and the components of their structures deteriorate varies greatly depending on geographic locations, the type of components used, and the age of the power line. Is once every five years often enough to know if a tree has died or if components have broken? Are manual inspections providing accurate depictions of conditions? These are questions that need deep consideration especially when the answers affect the general public.