What Is the Purpose of Utility Poles

The function of utility poles is to act as support for overhead power lines and multiple public utilities, including fiber optic cables, electrical cables, and associated equipment like street lights and transformers. They also are useful for eliminating cables and wires from interfering with traffic and people since all the electrical elements are routed up the pole. This method is also an inexpensive option to keep the lines insulated from the ground. Utility poles have numerous names as they can be referred to by the application it serves.

Utility poles are typically used as a means to carry two kinds of electric power lines, subtransmission and distribution. Distribution lines serve the purpose of transferring power to customers from local substations. The voltages carried range from 4.6 to 33 kilovolts and can travel as far as thirty miles. Transformers are able to step the voltage down from the original power level to a lower amount that can be used by the consumers.  The reduced voltage reaches the customer’s property due to the usage of service drops. Subtransmission lines transmit higher voltage power between substations, allowing electricity to be carried locally from the regional area. They regularly carry 46, 69, or 115 kilovolts for a maximum of 60 miles. Both types of lines can be often found on shared utility poles. The lack of available land in urban areas and other places, spurned the need to save space. The utilization of the “underbuild” technique permits a distribution line to be mounted beneath the subtransmission line. The joint poles are not only an efficient use of room, but are an economically smart choice as well.

The electrical lines do not actually touch the poles. Instead an insulator is used to bridge the gap between the two. This is to prevent any electricity from leaking out of the wires and going into the poles. Insulators were previously made out of glass, but today they are mostly crafted from polymer composites or ceramic.

The first utility poles were created in the middle of the 19th century and were used to hold telegraph wires. As the usage of electricity soared in the nation, utility poles were modified to account for this. The poles were fitted with insulators and began to serve the main purpose of carrying power lines. By the 20th century, the old wooden poles could simply not carry all the necessary lines. Cross arms were installed, sometimes four or five for each utility pole, in order to carry dozens of wires through cities.

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