Arizona Public Service Uses Steel Utility Poles to Harden Network, Improve Resiliency


Arizona Public Service (APS) is Arizona’s longest-serving and largest electric service company, founded in 1886. The company is responsible for providing electricity to more than 1.2 million retail and residential customers in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties. That number is expected to more than double by 2030. Its reputation is founded on safe, reliable and affordable service.

A key focus in APS’s continued and growing network is to maintain a hardened network, one that is less susceptible to damage from weather or other events; and more resilient, able to recover quickly when major events occur. One way that APS has found to harden its line as well as make it resilient is by replacing downed wood poles with steel poles.

APS currently has more than 420,000 poles throughout its system, and inspects 33,000 poles each year for damage or signs of aging. In many cases, APS is replacing its primarily wood power pole network with steel poles, as a way to minimize the chance of losing a pole.

APS has a long history with steel. The Arizona utility first tested the waters with steel in 1997 when its managers implemented a pilot program to evaluate alternatives to wood poles. The search for alternative materials gained impetus after an extremely damaging summer season when, on a single day, strong winds downed between 500 and 600 poles on the transmission and distribution system. The problem was not confined to summer storms but existed in winter as well, when snow and ice created heavy loading that damaged the lines. The cascading effect that occurred when one pole was lost, leading to unbalanced forces on adjacent poles, jeopardized the entire line. The pilot program resulted in the creation of new standards for the entire company.

In a KJZZ-TV interview, Jenna Shaver, spokeswoman for APS, explained why APS is again turning to steel to harden its power distribution system. ”Part of our restoration effort is working to harden the grid. So where we can, when a wood pole goes down, we will replace that with a steel pole. Our utility workers have needed to replace hundreds of wooden power poles that have been knocked down due to the storms.”

The company’s network has been put to the test as Arizona has faced a number of significant storms over the past year. In August and September 2015, Arizona was hit with multiple heavy monsoonal storms that dropped as much as 2 to 3 inches of rain per hour in some spots, causing severe flooding, and winds as high as 95 mph, causing widespread damage to infrastructure.

In fact, summer storms created considerable havoc for APS over the past year. According to an APS news release, within one three-week period, five powerful storms hit the Phoenix metro area, knocking down 485 wood power poles due to powerful winds upwards of 90 mph (an 81 percent increase from 2014). All 485 wood poles were replaced with steel.

KTAR-TV reported that APS has replaced more than 2,600 wood power poles with steel in 2015, a record number for any year, because of storms or as part of its annual replacement program.

Keith Lindemulder, chairman of the SMDI Steel Utility Pole Task Group, says that steel provides the resilience and strength that APS and other electric utilities require to harden their transmission and distribution network. “Steel stands up to harsh weather conditions and recovers quickly when damage occurs. The decision to add steel is a sound one. “


  • KJZZ News – APS Works to Repair Downed Power Poles After Phoenix Area Storm
  • KPHO News – Summer Storms Tearing Down Power Poles in Record Numbers
  • KTAR News – Arizona Utility Company Replacing Record Number of Power Poles After Summer Storms
  • Arizona Public Service News Release – APS Crews Replace 485 Power Poles Related toStorms
  • Fox 10 News – APS Ready for Another Round of Storms
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