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  #61  
Old Posted Aug 31, 2015, 7:22 PM
Sheba Sheba is online now
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Originally Posted by Olden Retreiver View Post
Any informed opinions here on whether BC Hydro's distribution infrastructure in the Lower Mainland is "fragile" or "robust"?
I was thinking about starting a thread in Urban Issues about power lines above vs underground, pros and cons of each - but it's been so quiet on here this weekend I figured I'd wait a bit.
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  #62  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 2:51 AM
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went 40 hours without power. What a nightmare.

Compound that with moving into a new place on Thursday, having our one and only vehicle going out on the fritz.

Went from about 12:45 PM on Saturday to 3:30 AM this morning. Worst thing is that BC Hydro couldn't get a handle on exactly how long it was going to take. Extremely frustrating when the timeframe kept extending 12 hours at a time.

Glad it's back. Know nothing really could have been done to accelerate the power being turned on, but communication was extremely poor.
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  #63  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 3:07 AM
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Ok so I'll start it here and if anyone thinks it should be moved to it's own thread...

I read up a bit on above vs underground power lines 'cause of course it's something people talk about after a storm and the power goes out. Short version seems to be that above ground lines are waaay cheaper and easier to install and maintain vs underground lines look much better and are not exposed to the elements so they're far less prone to weather related power outages.

I've been living in this spot for about 15 years now and most of the area is underground power lines. There hasn't been a single time we had a weather related outage. I saw some flickers during the storm but that was it.

So who here lost power, and for how long?
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  #64  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 3:44 AM
aberdeen5698 aberdeen5698 is offline
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I've been living in this spot for about 15 years now and most of the area is underground power lines. There hasn't been a single time we had a weather related outage.
I live in Vancouver proper and my power comes via aerial power lines running down the back lane. I saw no power outages at all during the storm, and aside from some issues a couple of years ago at our substation power outages are very rare. The most substantial outage I've had here in the past 30 years was only a few hours long and it was due to one of the original 1940's transformers on the pole near our house blowing out.

It's really all about how vulnerable the wires are that lead to your house from the nearest substation. Here in the city it's a lot more unusual to have trees in close proximity to those "last mile" portions of the power grid.
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  #65  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 4:41 AM
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My neighbourhood is about 120 years old, older than Vancouver itself, and we've never had a power outage more than an hour long in the 9 years I've lived here. Almost never any problems when it goes out everywhere else. Above ground lines in the alley, with a substation a few blocks away.

Only blew a single fuse in the most recent one.
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  #66  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 5:02 AM
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You're probably better off with overhead lines in the alley, since there are generally fewer big trees back there, compared to the huge street trees which fall on the front overhead lines.
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  #67  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 6:52 AM
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I live in metrotown and the power didn't go off, even though where I live has some flaky looking alley power lanes.
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  #68  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 8:28 AM
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Live on the Surrey Delta border, and live on a block with 8 other condo buildings and surrounded by townhomes. I have probably lost power only a few times; the longest was a half outage (half the circuits in my place worked, half didn't) that lasted 4 hours (and it was not storm related).

I lost power for about 50 hours, plus had no water most of Saturday.

I know this storm knocked over a lot of trees, but they also fall in other major storms. In fact, in my area there were not many (if any) trees blown over. So I don't know why my entire neighborhood was without power for 2 nights. I've barely had the lights flicker during a storm before, don't know why this was so much worse.

The worst part is just the total lack of information. It was hard to find anything out. The twitter feed was ridiculous. It started off as hundreds of thank you tweets to people who were lucky enough to get power back. Then became lame advice like "buy ice" and "can't access the list on your phone? use a different device" (yeah, let me fire up my electric dependent computer) and "push ctrl-f to find a street near you" (anyone who had a computer with a keyboard probably didn't have power problems) and tweets about "website out, phone the phoneline" followed by "the phoneline is busy visit the website" cycle. Then late on Monday they started actually posting updates!

And when you did find something out, it was completely inaccurate. Every ETA across Surrey was the exact same, which I have a hunch was just the same time as the end of the current shift. Not that that mattered because it was always wrong and pushed back. Just a the tiniest bit of accuracy (and a working website) would have made me feel a lot less anxious about the whole thing.

I wanted to check the site to see if there was someplace with power nearby I could go hang out, but that was impossible (it seemed reckless to drive around randomly looking for some place to go). Or if they just said right away sometime Monday power would be back instead of 8pm Saturday, then 12:30am Sunday, then 8am, then 1pm, then 12:30am Monday, then 12pm then 6pm Tuesday. I might have been able to plan around my situation better rather than just waiting around for nothing to happen.

BC Hydro has spend half a billion $$$ on their IT infrastructure over the last 5 years, and this is the result we get for paying those rates?
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  #69  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 11:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Sheba View Post
Ok so I'll start it here and if anyone thinks it should be moved to it's own thread...

I read up a bit on above vs underground power lines 'cause of course it's something people talk about after a storm and the power goes out. Short version seems to be that above ground lines are waaay cheaper and easier to install and maintain vs underground lines look much better and are not exposed to the elements so they're far less prone to weather related power outages.

I've been living in this spot for about 15 years now and most of the area is underground power lines. There hasn't been a single time we had a weather related outage. I saw some flickers during the storm but that was it.

So who here lost power, and for how long?
I live at Metrotown, the power didn't go out.

"cheaper and easier to install" - exactly why it shouldn't be done. Regardless if we are talking about Power lines, or rail lines.

Like overall, most of the power lines in Metro Vancouver are a legacy investment so putting lines underground only happens when development happens, because the lines can be put underground at the same time.

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BC Hydro has spend half a billion $$$ on their IT infrastructure over the last 5 years, and this is the result we get for paying those rates?
Imagine if this was "the big one" earthquake.
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  #70  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 5:09 PM
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Aside from all of the obvious disadvantages (ugliness, risk of falling, ease of being knocked-down, prevents development of alleyways)...

I wonder about the long-term capital cost of overground wires. All of the powerline supports I have ever seen in Vancouver are made from tree trunks. Great - there's plenty of trees to harvest and make into supports. Relatively affordable, but there's also the processing and treatment to make them usable. Where I see the main expense is that the wooden supports have a particular lifespan. They eventually rot, break, weaken, and need replacement. That whole process is very labour-intensive. Have you ever seen the usual 4-8-person crew working to replace a single wooden powerline post? It takes at least 2 days, and often they leave a stub of the old wooden post as extra support (presumably as the new one settles?) and they then have to come back at a later date and remove the old one. This whole process seems very very labour- and time-expensive.

Now compare to a street lamppost, or the high-tension power cables that span remote parts of the country. Made from metal (I would assume modern ones are aluminium or perhaps stainless steel) - as a result they are very weather-protected. Once they're up they're up. The poles themselves need less maintenance (lamps themselves obviously need changing). And they tend to be much more resistant to extreme weather you don't usually see toppled lampposts in the city after major storms). And installation is relatively easier. Pour a concrete foundation, mount the post, attach four big bolts, voilà.

Even though the construction costs are higher, I would wonder if it would be more long-term cost-effective to use metal support infrastructure in urban alleyways. Ultimately I think the power and cable lines would be better-off underground, but every time a neighbourhood wooden pole needs replacing, it might be smart to go with metal over wood.
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  #71  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 6:04 PM
aberdeen5698 aberdeen5698 is offline
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Have you ever seen the usual 4-8-person crew working to replace a single wooden powerline post? It takes at least 2 days, and often they leave a stub of the old wooden post as extra support (presumably as the new one settles?) and they then have to come back at a later date and remove the old stubs. This whole process seems very very labour- and time-expensive.
It takes one day to swap the pole - I watched them do it behind my house a couple of years ago and shot a time-lapse video of the process. It's actually quite clever how they do it.

The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0Knzw5a56M

I believe the pole in question was an original one for our street which would place it at circa 1949.

The reason they leave the stub pole there is because it carries not just the hydro power lines but also the Telus and Shaw phone and cable lines. They're not authorized to monkey around with those other companies' infrastructure. So the leave those lines attached to the old pole until the other companies come along and move them to the new one, then they gather up the old poles.
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Now compare to a street lamppost, or the high-tension power cables that span remote parts of the country. Made from metal (I would assume modern ones are aluminum or perhaps stainless steel) - as a result they are very weather-protected. Once they're up they're up. The poles themselves need less maintenance (lamps themselves obviously need changing). And they tend to be much more resistant to extreme weather you don't usually see toppled lampposts in the city after major storms).
I've never seen toppled utility poles after a storm, either. Trees come down because the branches and leaves catch the wind, but that's not an issue with utility poles.

Also, you need to bear in mind that the 220V feeder lines that run down the laneways are fed from transformers connected to a high voltage line (50KVolts, I think?) that runs along the very tops of the poles. Using metal poles may pose some challenges in terms of dealing with those kinds of voltages in a fashion that doesn't compromise safety for the people at the bottom of the pole. Note in the video how much distance there is between the three wires that carry the 220V power and the high voltage line at the very top. It would be difficult to provide that isolation distance on a metal pole.
Quote:
Ultimately I think the power and cable lines would be better-off underground, but every time a neighbourhood wooden pole needs replacing, it might be smart to go with metal over wood.
The people who run utilities all over the world aren't dummies. If they thought they could do it cheaper with metal poles I'm sure they wouldn't hesitate to use them.
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  #72  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 6:58 PM
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Originally Posted by aberdeen5698 View Post
It takes one day to swap the pole - I watched them do it behind my house a couple of years ago and shot a time-lapse video of the process. It's actually quite clever how they do it.

The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0Knzw5a56M

I believe the pole in question was an original one for our street which would place it at circa 1949.

The reason they leave the stub pole there is because it carries not just the hydro power lines but also the Telus and Shaw phone and cable lines. They're not authorized to monkey around with those other companies' infrastructure. So the leave those lines attached to the old pole until the other companies come along and move them to the new one, then they gather up the old poles.
I've never seen toppled utility poles after a storm, either. Trees come down because the branches and leaves catch the wind, but that's not an issue with utility poles.

Also, you need to bear in mind that the 220V feeder lines that run down the laneways are fed from transformers connected to a high voltage line (50KVolts, I think?) that runs along the very tops of the poles. Using metal poles may pose some challenges in terms of dealing with those kinds of voltages in a fashion that doesn't compromise safety for the people at the bottom of the pole. Note in the video how much distance there is between the three wires that carry the 220V power and the high voltage line at the very top. It would be difficult to provide that isolation distance on a metal pole.The people who run utilities all over the world aren't dummies. If they thought they could do it cheaper with metal poles I'm sure they wouldn't hesitate to use them.
Interesting video you posted there. I think I mis-spoke in saying it takes "at least 2 days" to change to pole. I should have said it takes "at most 2 days". The ones in my alley were done this summer too, so I had the privilege of watching the process too. 2 days.

Also interesting to learn from you about the utilities not being allowed to touch or move the other utilities' wires.

I have seen many toppled wooden poles. You may not have. But it does definitely happen. Again, in my neighbourhood, I had to navigate one earlier this spring. Sometimes it's because the top portion is weakened from animal attack (I would assume woodpeckers, rot, and possibly insects making holes), so it takes some external forces to break them. Also, if a large enough tree branch topples onto wires, it can break the top of the pole. Seen that too.

I don't think a metal pole carrying live wires is innately more dangerous than a wooden version. The cables are insulated, their contacts to the pole are insulated, and high-tension cables all around the world have been made of metal for years and years. Yes precautions would need to be placed, but the risk is not from an increased chance of electrocution from touching the metal pole at the bottom

Finally I don't assume the people who run utilities are dummies either. However, new technologies come along, and companies have a habit of sticking with what they know, unless presented with a clear cost-saving alternative. For all we know, the utilities are considering metal poles but just haven't started the process of installing them yet.
After doing some initial googling, there are lots of companies that offer metal power poles as an alternative to wood, and state, just as I had surmised, that over the long term, metal poles end up cheaper than wooden ones. In fact, a US steel lobbying organisation (obvious biased noted) claimed close to one million steel poles have been installed since 1998, and are used in 600 of 3100 US electric utilities (an interesting set of links here: https://www.steel.org/The%20New%20St...y%20Poles.aspx)
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  #73  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 9:41 PM
Kisai Kisai is offline
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Originally Posted by djh View Post
Even though the construction costs are higher, I would wonder if it would be more long-term cost-effective to use metal support infrastructure in urban alleyways. Ultimately I think the power and cable lines would be better-off underground, but every time a neighbourhood wooden pole needs replacing, it might be smart to go with metal over wood.
Actually they replace wooden poles with concrete ones in some places. The pole closest to my parents place out on the Island is concrete. But... it blocks wireless signals.

https://www.bchydro.com/news/conserv...placement.html

http://www.twu-stt.ca/en/immediate-d...concrete-poles
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Concrete poles have been found to experience damage to the bolts when a system fault occurs due to insulator failure or fallen tree/branch contacting both the conductor and the pole. The fault current may travel through the hardware (bolts) to the concrete pole reinforcing steel to ground. Because of the high impedance between the bolt and the reinforcing steel, the initial fault current might not be high enough to trip the protection. Arching between the bolt and the pole may cause damage to the bolt and cause hardware to fall from the pole.
Also I believe that answers the question about why they don't use metal poles.

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Originally Posted by djh View Post
After doing some initial googling, there are lots of companies that offer metal power poles as an alternative to wood, and state, just as I had surmised, that over the long term, metal poles end up cheaper than wooden ones. In fact, a US steel lobbying organisation (obvious biased noted) claimed close to one million steel poles have been installed since 1998, and are used in 600 of 3100 US electric utilities (an interesting set of links here: https://www.steel.org/The%20New%20St...y%20Poles.aspx)
You have to factor in the environment. I'd suggest that Most of the US and Canada north of Nevada is unsuitable steel poles due to road salt. All the lamp stands out here are often rusted up to 2m up the pole, and they do occasionally fall over when winds hit 100km/h (basically 80% of hurricane-force winds.) Areas that get precipitation or no precipitation without road salt seasons have little opportunity to rust.

In BC, they might not be very suitable unless they were to be washed and painted every year. The concrete option is probably more cost-effective until concrete is too expensive.

Last edited by Kisai; Sep 1, 2015 at 9:56 PM.
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  #74  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 10:30 PM
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Actually they replace wooden poles with concrete ones in some places. The pole closest to my parents place out on the Island is concrete. But... it blocks wireless signals.

https://www.bchydro.com/news/conserv...placement.html

http://www.twu-stt.ca/en/immediate-d...concrete-poles


Also I believe that answers the question about why they don't use metal poles.



You have to factor in the environment. I'd suggest that Most of the US and Canada north of Nevada is unsuitable steel poles due to road salt. All the lamp stands out here are often rusted up to 2m up the pole, and they do occasionally fall over when winds hit 100km/h (basically 80% of hurricane-force winds.) Areas that get precipitation or no precipitation without road salt seasons have little opportunity to rust.

In BC, they might not be very suitable unless they were to be washed and painted every year. The concrete option is probably more cost-effective until concrete is too expensive.
That was interesting about concrete being an adopted replacement technology. I'd imagine it's quite expensive per post.

However, no matter what technology is used, there will always be failures. Generally the benefits outweigh the risks. And the authorities can't rule-out using a technology because of once-in-a-blue-moon odds. For example. lightning could hit a wooden pole and because they're often coated in creosote (old ones in particular, I think), it could burst into flames. But that didn't stop wood being used.

I would also expect corrosion-resistant (or corrosion-proof) metals to be the obvious choice. Isn't stainless steel, galvanised steel, or aluminium incredibly resistant to salt corrosion? They use them in ships, so clearly it can be done. Lamp posts do it. They sometimes do have some corrosion, but it's not an epidemic, and they still last for ages.

I also saw talk about other materials other than wood, metal or concrete that was becoming very popular for utility poles. I think it was fibreglass. But then, I would imagine it start being expensive.
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  #75  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 10:40 PM
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I was looking at the hydro site last night after I got power and noticed something. Then checked again today...



So question. Why the disparity between current power outages between Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, and the North Shore vs the Tri Cities and SoF?

(It was more skewed yesterday. there were maybe at most 100 customers without power in former cities, and tens of thousands in the latter).

Is it infrastructure related? Is it just where the storm hit harder? Is it a preference to get some places back online first before others?

It's probably just totally cynical of me, but I can't help like feeling it is a bit of a Tale of Two Cities: "...it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness..."
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  #76  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 10:54 PM
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Maybe more trees in the suburbs, so more downed lines
(i.e. not just one tree wiping out a neighbourhood's power, but 10 trees)
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  #77  
Old Posted Sep 1, 2015, 11:16 PM
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Maybe more trees in the suburbs, so more downed lines
(i.e. not just one tree wiping out a neighbourhood's power, but 10 trees)
Maybe. But on the news you would think it was the tree-pocolypse in Vancouver proper; there seems to be an awful lot of trees down in the city. You would think that would make a lot of small pockets offline. You would think there would be a lot of work to do in Vancouver/Burnaby (they do have a lot of trees too).

Last night there were still a lot of large blocks offline SoF. Mine was a grid of almost 1400 customers that was out for 48+ hours and came back all at once and no downed trees in the neighborhood from what I could see.

Soooooooo?
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  #78  
Old Posted Sep 2, 2015, 2:01 AM
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Originally Posted by BCPhil View Post
I was looking at the hydro site last night after I got power and noticed something. Then checked again today...



So question. Why the disparity between current power outages between Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, and the North Shore vs the Tri Cities and SoF?

(It was more skewed yesterday. there were maybe at most 100 customers without power in former cities, and tens of thousands in the latter).

Is it infrastructure related? Is it just where the storm hit harder? Is it a preference to get some places back online first before others?

It's probably just totally cynical of me, but I can't help like feeling it is a bit of a Tale of Two Cities: "...it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness..."
I'm guessing this actually has to do with density. There are more feet of vulnerable power lines in Surrey for every person, as the lines have to stretch to each single family home. There is less incentive to solve an equally time-consuming power line break when it will only restore service to 10 homes, rather than 2-3 apartment buildings and so on. Even a whole "block" in Surrey usually has less people than 3 or 4 buildings in much of Van-Burnaby-NewWest-Richmond. Power is also more essential in tall buildings that have elevators, as lack of electricity prevents many from even reaching their units, and there is also less space to store emergency supplies in each unit. In terms of tree-clearing too, the denser grid of roads is more robust at handling blockages, since there are multiple options for going around, whereas in Surrey a blocked arterial may be your only way out of an area. This likely allowed BC Hydro to immediately prioritize repairing power lines north of the Fraser rather than clearing roads so their trucks could get through to even do so. The density-related explanations could go on and on.
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  #79  
Old Posted Sep 2, 2015, 3:31 AM
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Out in Maple Ridge, my house lost power on Saturday afternoon for 5.5 hours, and then again for 15 hours almost all day Sunday. We also briefly lost power again at 1am last night.

A few blocks away, power was lost on Saturday and was still out at 7:30 last night when I was on my way home. It was back this morning.


Will be interesting to see how this impacts local grocery stores. The nearby Save-On-Foods was without power for most of the weekend, and had to toss out anything perishable due to lack of refrigeration.
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  #80  
Old Posted Sep 2, 2015, 5:02 AM
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Will be interesting to see how this impacts local grocery stores. The nearby Save-On-Foods was without power for most of the weekend, and had to toss out anything perishable due to lack of refrigeration.
Weird - some stores have emergency generators to keep the freezers running when there's a power outage.
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