Page 9 - BowieNews

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N
orth
T
exas
E
nergy
O
utlook
• 9
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
By BARBARA GREEN
Electricity is the one
fuel that touches people’s
lives virtually every mo-
ment of the day.
From the time your
alarm clock sounds off, to
that hot shower and cof-
fee that gets you started,
it’s all powered by elec-
tricity. When you come
home at night you enjoy
TV or read a story to your
child by lamplight.
While natural gas and
coal generate that elec-
tricity, that humming
voltage surrounds our
lives. The often unsung
heroes are those utility
linemen who run and
maintain those lines in
all types of terrain and
conditions.
Wise Electric Coopera-
tive, organized in 1938,
serves seven rural areas
which includeWise, Mon-
tague, Jack, Clay Park-
er, Denton and Cooke
Counties. At this time
the WEC service terri-
tory consists of 20,324
connected meters with
13,066 members and
3,196 miles of energized
line including 52 miles of
underground line.
Usually linemen qui-
etly go about their jobs
replacing poles or run-
ning new service. Regu-
lar maintenance is a con-
stant that begins again
once it is completed.
Electrical cable is rout-
ed overhead on utility
poles as an inexpensive
way to keep it insulated
from the ground and out
of the way of people and
vehicles. Utility poles can
be made of wood, metal,
concrete or composites
like fiberglass.
They are used for two
different types of power
lines: Subtransmission
lines carry higher voltage
power between substa-
tions and distribution
lines send lower voltage
power to customers.
Russell King is line
superintendent for Wise
Electric. He began 32
years ago as an appren-
tice lineman and worked
his way up through the
ranks. Seven years ago
he became superinten-
dent after 15 years as a
first class lineman.
Wise Electric Coop op-
erates its own contracting
company, Wise Pole Line,
which handles construc-
tion and operates with
about 13 people. Wise has
the main service and out-
age crew operating with
23 in operations.
All the linemen were
called to duty the week-
end of Oct. 11-12 when
a fall thunderstorm with
high winds caused havoc
in Wise and Jack Coun-
ties. It is the most recent
example of linemen work-
ing to restore power to
customers.
“They went out with
about a50percent crewon
Friday night and stayed
eight or nine hours,” said
King, “but on Sunday
the full team was out
around midnight with
some working until 9
p.m. Monday. It is not out
of the ordinary to work a
48-hour shift when there
has been a storm.”
King calls the lineman,
“a very different breed of
person.” He explains they
have to take on so many
roles
worker, customer
service in the field, the
one who gets up in the
middle of the night and
the person who is willing
to work on high voltage
in the most dangerous
conditions.
“At the same time,
they are husbands, par-
ents, Little League coach-
es, well-rounded, hard-
working and dedicated
people,” stated King.
Linemen come into the
company from different
experience. Wise often
hires younger people not
long out of high school,
recruiting those who may
fit the job criteria. Oth-
ers come to the company
with experience and they
filter what may be ap-
plicable.
“We screen the type
of person who can work
outside under any con-
dition. We do our own
training on site and send
Linemen work to maintain, restore power
Through fire and ice
them to classes under the
Texas Electric Coop Divi-
sion, often through South
Plains College. They also
do specialized training
as needed,” explained
King.
Much o f the l ine -
man’s job is upgrade and
maintenance of the sys-
tem, however, it also is
economically-driven by
serving the oil field or
subdivision development.
And, of course, weather-
related problems can oc-
cur at any time. King
says if you are a lineman
you get prepared when
you know it is coming.
He calls trying to bal-
ance the roles of husband,
parent and worker the
hardest part of the job.
“It is physical work
and you must focus on
the dangers you face each
day,” explains King. “You
have to be on your game
because electricity has no
mercy. There is no room
for error. It is a place
where your mind has to
be in it 100 percent. That
is the biggest challenge
for a lineman.”
With danger ever pres-
ent, safety is priority.
Each time a crew goes
to a job site, they will
conduct what a “tailboard
discussion” outlining the
task and what each per-
son will be doing.
King said it is a daily
routine, coupled with
monthly safety meet-
ings and other regular
training. He added the
company has its own
safety coordinator, but
also hires an outside con-
sultant to attend meet-
ings giving them “fresh
eyes and ideas.”
The work crews are
a close-knit group that
watches out for each oth-
er on the job site.
King said these line-
men take great pride in
their work and often push
themselves.
“These linemen see
things like damage in an
ice storm as a challenge,
where they come together
to work it out,” said the
superintendent.
Utility poles were first
used in the mid-19th
century with telegraph
systems, starting with
Samuel Morse who at-
tempted to bury a line
between Baltimore and
Washington DC, but
moved it above ground
when it proved faulty.
The standard utility
pole in the United States
is about 40 feet long and
is buried about six feet
in the ground. However,
poles can reach heights of
120 feet or more.
Today, hydraulic buck-
et trucks can take a line-
man above the trees to
access the towering util-
ity poles. However, those
who work in the rural
area always have a set of
climbing hooks and har-
nesses. King laughs that
sometimes you have to
get back in the trenches
because a bucket truck
just can’t get into some
terrain.
Advances in technol-
ogy have improved elec-
tric service as well as the
tools uses to maintain it.
King says in operations
everything is computer-
driven. Linemen have
iPads in their trucks that
sync with their smart
phones and to the of-
fice. This instant access
improves access and also
helps with training.
King said one of the
best tools they have now
is SCADA, a supervisory
control and data acquisi-
tion system. It operates
with coded signals over
communication channels
so as to provide control of
remote equipment. It al-
lows them to monitor all
electric loads, fault cur-
rents and all operations
from the computer base
station.
“We can see the sys-
tem 24 hours a day to
see where problems may
occur and what is hap-
pening at any time. It use
to be alerted by phone,
but this gives us more of
a jump on an outage. We
have used it the last five
or six years, it brought us
a long way,” said King.
A Wise Electric Coop linemen works in a bucket truck on a line conversion.
An ice storm can cause massive damage like this storm last winter.
While ice and wind can create havoc for utility lines, wildfires also have been prevalent
in recent years due to the drought across Texas.
Photos courtesy of Wise Electric