Testing electricity poles with ‘Thor’s hammer’

(Photo: Harm Kolk/flickr)

Trials are to be carried out of a system that assesses the stability of electricity poles by hitting them with a hammer and measuring the resulting vibrations.

SP Energy Networks has invested £386,000 to carry out the trials of the new Thor Hammer, which has been developed by New Zealand-based global engineering firm Groundline.

The technology will help linesmen assess timber poles simply by striking them with the hammer. It will be used as part of ongoing work to prepare the electricity network for stormy weather. The device will be used test the strength of overline poles and how secure they are, as well as to estimate their remaining life.

Greg Shirley, innovation engineer at SP Energy Networks, said: “We have a few Marvel fans in the team so it was fun seeing the Thor hammer project come to life. Our engineers are real life superheroes working through extreme weather to protect the network – so it’s a fitting name for a really innovative piece of technology.”

The technology is being trialled across SP Energy Networks’ two distribution licence areas in parts of Lanarkshire, Edinburgh, the Scottish Borders and Wales. If successful, the Thor Hammer device could generate annual savings of £600,000 for SP Energy Networks’, which currently spends about £15m every year on replacing overhead line poles.

Vibrations are sent through the timber poles, allowing SP Energy Networks’ engineers to gather data. SP Energy Networks said that it offers a huge improvement on current methods, facilitating a more accurate measurement of remaining pole strength and ensuring that pole life is maximised.

The hammer can be used to detect the presence of any internal decay – including below ground level without excavation – and can provide GPS-tagged measurement results as well as predicting the end of life to accelerate the planning of refurbishment and investment. Accurate assessments of the pole’s condition make pole climbing much safer.

Read more at The Construction Index