Every two to four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers Committee on America’s Infrastructure submits a report on the state of America’s Infrastructure. The study assesses all current data and reports, consults with technical and industry experts, and assigns a singular grade based on their findings. This score is based upon eight key infrastructural elements: Capacity, Condition, Funding, Future Need, Innovation, Operation and Maintenance, Public Safety, and Resilience.

According to the committee, American energy infrastructure has scored a D+ for two reports in a row, one in 2013 and now the other in 2017. The ASCE defines this grade category as, “The infrastructure is in poor to fair condition and mostly below standard, with many elements approaching the end of their service life. A large portion of the system exhibits significant deterioration. Condition and capacity are of serious concern with strong risk of failure.” Just as children with grades like this need change and special attention, so do our commonly forgotten and often times ignored aging energy infrastructure.

As reported by the (ASCE), most electric transmission and distribution lines were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s with a 40-50-year life expectancy. This means that the majority of lines had exceeded their anticipated lifespan by the year 2010. Additionally, more than 640,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines across the three interconnected electric transmission grids, Eastern, Western, and Texas Interconnections, are at or near full capacity. Many of these lines are reported to be operating well beyond their original design parameters.

Power line in Moore, Oklahoma hit by level 5 hurricane, held together by ACCC when aluminum fails to do so.

Without greater attention to aging equipment, capacity bottlenecks, increased electrical demand, and increasing storm and climate impacts, Americans will likely experience longer and more frequent power interruptions. In 2015 Americans experienced a reported 3,571 total outages, with an average duration of 49 minutes. On Aug. 14, 2003, A massive blackout culminated, generating unit trips and widespread transmission line disconnections across the upper Midwest, the Northeast and parts of Canada. These cases serve as proof that new transmission and distributed technologies may play an increasingly important long-term role, particularly as cities continue to grow in population and size.

Between 2016 and 2025, energy generation facilities and T&D infrastructure have an estimated $177 billion cumulative investment gap. At the same time, utilities face considerable pressure to cover maintenance and system upgrade costs through regulator-capped rate increases, and thus struggle to justify more reliable lines or make long-term investments. The cost of electricity to the consumer is calculated by generally the cost of generation, as well as a multitude of other factors.

The permitting process of T&D projects presents a particular challenge to energy infrastructure, amounting to substantial expenses and causing significant delays in the construction of critical lines necessary to bring needed energy into the grid. High Capacity Low Sag (HCLS) conductors, allow for highly elevated levels of performance without significant change in line dimensions. This innovation in capacity technology allows for what is now known as “reconductoring” which involves using existing infrastructure to support new conductor systems. The beauty of the reconductoring with an ACCC type of (HCLS) conductor, is that project managers can reduce costs and increase efficiency on a number of different fronts. As oppose to getting a new construction permit,  with reconductoring you are able to change the line with only a maintenance permit in most cases, which is not nearly as expensive or time consuming. Moreover, decision makers are also able to use existing land and structures resulting in even less time and money with regards to planning and permitting. Therefore, it is not a terribly far mental leap to understand that the more money, time, and energy utilities save, the less cost comes to the consumer. ACCC in combination with this modern reconductoring concept is a great way to better satisfy all parties involved.

The U.S. energy sector faces significant challenges as a result of aging infrastructure including supply, security and reliability, and resiliency issues in the face of severe weather events. All of these pose a severe threat to public safety and the national economy. Between 2003 and 2012, weather-related outages, coupled with aging infrastructure, are estimated to have cost the U.S. economy an inflation-adjusted annual average of $18 billion to $33 billion.

 

Reconductoring with (HCLS) conductor like ACCC addresses four out of the seven recommendations made by the committee to raise the nation’s overall infrastructure score.

  1. “Streamline permitting processes, to facilitate prompt construction of critical new transmission lines and natural gas pipelines. Process streamlining must include steps to consider alternative approaches and ensure prudent and safe routing.”
  • Reconductoring allows the use of original right of ways and often times infrastructure as well commonly only needing to obtain a maintenance permit to start working. These three key factors all save a vast amount of time and money.
  1. Develop a national “storm hardening” plan that considers investment in T&D, refinery, and generation systems that withstand storms or that enable rapid restoration of energy supply after storm events.
  • The (HCLS) conductors, specifically ACCC composite core, have been field proven to withstand the forces of a category five hurricane and large forest fires.
  1. Increase new and rebuilt distribution lines’ minimum design loads for ice, wind, and temperature to improve reliability and public safety and reduce inconveniences associated with power outages.
  • As seen in the picture above, ACCC is not only reliable but extremely resistant. It is important to note that the cost of repairs and number of outages are significantly less if the line never completely breaks.
  1. Promote usage of accepted engineering standards for all overhead T&D lines, pipelines, and support structures to help ensure safety and reliability.
  • CTC Global always insures the safety and reliability of their customers through custom hardware options and personalized training for anyone involved with the project from start to finish. This has proven true for the over 500 projects they have completed to date, and will continue to do so.

With grading like this coming from leading industry experts, there is no question that action needs to be taken on a number of different fronts and in a timely manner. The concept of reconductoring, while fairly new to the industry, addresses many of the problems that were reported over the past eight years. Due to numerous financial, dimensional, and ability related advantages, ACCC continues to be the absolute best conductor for projects both domestically and internationally.

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