Power line research shocks and impresses

Shannon Developments Corp. assesses power lines around the world. For more than 20 years its assessments have helped utilities to replace only the power lines that are wearing out, instead of going through scheduled replacement, which may mean lines that are still performing are taken down.

Recently, Shannon’s assessment process has evolved toward digitized analysis — and company owner Douglas Shannon needed samples of power lines that had deteriorated in different ways. With them, he could create digital files to be used in an analytical computer model. Rather than using actual corroded power lines for his research, Shannon needed a method to simulate aging on conductors.

“This is a very high-stakes game for utility providers because of the expense to replace the lines,” Shannon said. “Creating this analytical system from the physical models will allow us to provide our clients with a comprehensive and cost-effective assessment of their aging power line infrastructure.”

Shannon approached the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) to undertake an applied research project with design, testing and fabrication researchers in the institute’s Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) department. The researchers created 15 samples of simulated power lines affected by different types of corrosion.

“Now that we have the physical samples, we’re looking to create the digital models that reflect them. These digital files will then be used in an analytical computer model,” Shannon explained. “What has been advantageous for me about working with [the Applied Research and Innovation Services department] is that it allowed me to focus on the computer model while researchers developed the physical samples, very hands-on work that required a lot of time and attention to detail.”

There were also advantages for SAIT students who got an opportunity to collaborate with SAIT researchers on the work, and for utility companies which will ultimately get efficient, fast and accurate information about the state of their power lines and whether they need to be replaced from this multi-faceted research.

Industry: Manufacturing
Funded by: Engage Grant

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