Energy Matters – September 2017

Power Smart tip

Clean your fresh veggies in a bowl of cold water rather than rinsing them under a tap of running water.

Wood poles — the bones of our system

They criss-cross the province, a fixture of the Manitoba landscape as they deliver reliable, safe electricity to your home.

Manitoba Hydro’s 1.1 million wood poles carry distribution lines that provide Manitobans with electricity from local substations.

More than half the poles in the province are over 30 years old. Many were installed during rural electrification in the 1940–50s. Some are even older.

A well-maintained wood pole has a lifespan of about 75 years. In the next 20 years, many wood poles installed during rural electrification will approach the end of their life.

Manitoba Hydro orders around 10,000 new poles each year. Half of these are for projects that expand our system to better serve existing customers or allow us to reach new customers. The other half is for replacing expired poles damaged by vehicle collisions, pole fires, storms, ants, woodpeckers, beavers, fungi and more.

Whether installing new or replacing old, Manitoba Hydro purchases all its wood poles within Canada.

The majority of Hydro’s new poles are red pine, lodgepole pine and western red cedar. Most of our longer poles are western red cedar from British Columbia. Most of the more common poles are red pine. Most of the red pine comes from Eastern Canada while the lodgepole pine comes from Western Canada. Many of the existing rural distribution poles are jack pine harvested in Manitoba.

Even though cement and steel poles have been developed, testing shows wood is still the best option. Beyond being more accessible and more cost-efficient, they are also better from a safety perspective. Trained power line technicians can climb wooden poles using spurs on their boots. Cement or steel poles would require built-in ladders, presenting public safety and security risks, plus increased costs.

A properly maintained pole can last about as long as it takes to grow a replacement tree. Here’s how we maintain our poles:

  • Each year, we inspect and treat more than 60,000 power distribution poles in order to extend their life, generally by about 15 years.
  • Extending the life of a pole saves money in replacing them and reduces the number of trees that have to be harvested to make new poles.
  • Each pole gets tested every 10 to 15 years. Depending on the needs of the specific pole, it can be treated with an insecticide for carpenter ants, it can be treated for internal rot and fungi, and crews can dig up the earth around the pole to apply a supplemental preservative paste and wrap it with a paper barrier.
  • Since 2004, all new wood poles have arrived with a seven-digit barcode. This was the first step in our Pole Inventory Project that began in October 2006.
  • The project involved identifying the location of each pole with global positioning.
  • Knowing the location of each pole helps us more effectively track the lifecycle of our poles and respond to outages more quickly.

Facts about utility poles

  • Wood poles were used to distribute the first hydro-electric power in the province. In 1900, the Minnedosa River Plant was Manitoba’s first hydro-electric generating station, operated by the Brandon Electric-Light Company. It used an 11,000-volt, wood-pole line to deliver power to Brandon.
  • In 1911, Winnipeg Hydro used 8,235 wood poles to bring electricity to the city from the Pointe du Bois Generating Station on the Winnipeg River.
  • The rural electrification program began in 1945. To bring electricity to farms, the Manitoba Power Commission (predecessor of Manitoba Hydro) turned to local logging operations for Jack Pine to use for poles.
  • Approximately 250,000 of these poles were installed between 1945 and 1951. Obtaining poles from logging operations continued until about 1988. Now our poles come from different parts of Canada.

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Door-to-door sales — if you don’t want it, don’t buy it

We often get reports from customers of being approached at their home by someone who gives the impression they represent Manitoba Hydro.

In most cases, customers tell us they were the target of a high-pressure attempt to sell them an unnecessary service or product, such as a furnace or water heater.

Seniors are frequent targets, but no one is immune.

If someone comes to your door representing Manitoba Hydro, ask to see their ID card. Our employees:

  • have an official identification card with their name and photo;
  • do not mind if you take the time to confirm their identity;
  • do not pressure you to allow them into your home;
  • will never try to sell you any product or service.

Your safety is our priority. If you feel threatened or concerned in any way, call us at 1-888-624-9376 before letting them inside your home.

And be a good neighbour. If you see someone acting suspiciously on your street, call police right away.

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Farm to School Manitoba

Access to fresh vegetables for Manitoba families is the driving force of Farm to School Manitoba. Our local program efficiently delivers large quantities of fresh produce to schools and daycare centres throughout the province. Youth and families participating in the program learn about healthy food choices and food preparation. Enrol between September and December on the Farm To School website.

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