SP Energy Networks has invested £386,000 to carry out extensive UK trials of exciting new THOR Hammer resilience technology.
As part of ongoing work to prepare the electricity network for stormy weather, the new THOR Hammer device will be used to test the strength, secureness and remaining life of overhead line poles. The THOR Hammer will help linesmen safely assess timber poles simply by striking them with the hammer.
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 the company, which currently spends around £15m every year on replacing overhead line poles.
The THOR Hammer technology was developed by New Zealand-based global engineering firm Groundline. Using cutting-edge seismic technology, vibrations are sent through the timber poles, allowing SP Energy Networks’ engineers to gather crucial data. This offers a huge improvement on current methods, facilitating a more accurate measurement of remaining pole strength and ensuring that pole life is maximised.
SP Energy Networks will continue extensive testing and trialling of the technology across its network in 2021.
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.
“Having a robust network of resilient overhead powerlines allows us to keep the power flowing and the lights on whatever the weather. We know from experience that the worst winter storms can result in some power loss – particularly when major lines are hit by trees and other debris brought down by high winds. By identifying potential risks in advance, we can take action now to reduce the impact when the weather takes a turn for the worse.
“THOR Hammer will provide valuable data – allowing us to power our customers’ homes every day and protect our network.”
The vital data these devices collate includes detecting the presence of any internal decay, including below ground level without excavation, GPS-tagged measurement results, predicted end of life to accelerate refurbishment and investment planning, and accurate pole condition assessments, making pole climbing much safer for engineers.
Previously, SP Energy Networks carried out all pole maintenance using its team on the ground and excavation work often took weeks to complete. Although the network provider will always require people on the ground, the THOR Hammer device provides extremely accurate data collection capability on the spot.
Ian Flatley, Director at Groundline Engineering, said: “THOR Hammer is an important tool to inform and provide valuable insights to timber pole network providers. This current project, which includes learnings and development on United Kingdom poles, is set to be transformational for Distribution Network Operators like SP Energy Networks.”
As it announces this major investment, the network operator is also urging customers to follow essential safety advice such as keeping the national 105 emergency number close to hand, storing a battery powered torch at home, being extremely careful to avoid fallen power lines and keeping their mobile phones charged to help them should a power cut occur.