MacLean Power Systems Addresses Storm Hardening and Fiberglass Product Demand

After a slew of severe storms across the country in recent years, most notably Super Storm Sandy along the east coast in 2012, many utilities are engaging in what is commonly referred to as storm hardening upgrades to their systems.  These upgrades alleviate the amount of damage and customer outages attributed to these events. The need for storm hardening isn’t necessarily confined to coastal areas in the way of hurricanes and tropical storms either. Most of the trauma to the electrical system doesn’t come from the rain, but the flooding and high winds that accompany it. Other areas, like the Midwest and Chicago, get their fair share of bad thunderstorms, and can also suffer from ice storms in the winter, which overload lines, and damage equipment. In addition to ice storms, salt from road deicing activities, and other environmental pollutants in the area, can affect system performance by prematurely degrading certain products such as metal and wood based components. On the west coast, in California, where there are annual wild fires, storm hardening can even include upgrading to products which resist burning.

Typical trends for storm hardening include replacing critical, aged, or poor performing elements in the electrical system with new products that have improved designs over traditional materials. Composites are a natural choice for storm hardening solutions. In general, they tend to be higher strength, weigh less, resist damage due to contamination and corrosive environments, and have advantageous failure modes over their wood and steel based counterparts. A good example are composite crossarms versus the typical steel or wood arms currently employed on many electrical systems.

Given the advantages, many utility customers are upgrading their systems with composite products. MPS has been able to service several of these conversions and upgrades throughout the country at major utilities with products such as fiberglass crossarms, guy strain insulators, and fiberglass bracket mounts replacing current products such as wood and steel crossarms, porcelain guy insulators, and steel brackets. Fiberglass crossarm sales in North America alone have increased over the last 5 years and have expanded worldwide to areas that suffer from storm and environmental issues. Other products, such as guy strain insulators, have seen increased usage due to NESC standards, which call for increased electrical insulation values, forcing utilities to actively reinsulate their systems for reliability and safety concerns.