Sustainable Resilience

The concept of sustainability is gaining momentum. The UN Brundtland Commissioner's definition is that sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In other words, what choices do we need to make today that ensures our posterity can also have a good life?

Our lives have and will continue to depend on resources, many of which can replenish. However, this system only works if resources are being consumed at a rate that can replenish quickly enough, known as the replacement rate. If there is no equilibrium between resource usage and the replacement rate, the resource level is diminished, which is unsustainable.

By definition, wood poles, which are produced from trees, are a sustainable resource. The accelerated, new growth wood poles of today, however, are different from the original old growth wood poles used to build out the electrical grid 60 to 70 years ago. Compounding this transition is that, in the interest of human health, the preservatives used to treat wood poles to ensure their longevity is increasingly scrutinized by the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to reduce ecotoxicity. The net result is that wood poles are trending lower in strength, stiffness, and longevity.

In the face of increasingly severe climate threats like hurricanes, fires, and ice storms, is it responsible to entrust the delivery of essential electric service, upon which we increasingly depend on, to wood poles? Even the wood pole industry admits that hardening the grid with stronger wood poles is an unsustainable practice.

An effective grid infrastructure solution must also consider resiliency in addition to sustainability to serve the greatest social good. The sustainable resiliency combination is best positioned to delivery on the three E's: Environment, Economy, and Equity. Sustainably resilient composite poles are the most efficient choice to achieve overhead line reliability to keep the power on.

The electric utility is transitioning to focus on threat mitigation. Depending on your service territory, specific threats can range from hurricanes to fires to ice storms to woodpeckers. What is the most effective strategy to harden the grid? The plan starts with engineered materials designed to mitigate the threat that provide resilient performance in the face of adversity. Composite poles are the solution for overhead lines.