SP Energy Networks has invested £386 000 to carry out extensive UK trials of Groundline’s new ‘THOR Hammer’ resilience technology.

As part of ongoing work to prepare the electricity network for stormy weather, the device will be used to test the strength, secureness and remaining life of overhead line poles. It is designed help linesmen safely assess timber poles simply by striking them with a special ‘hammer’.

The technology is being trialled across SP Energy Networks’ two distribution licence areas in Wales, Scotland and the north of England. It is anticipated that the device could generate annual savings of £600 000 for the company, which currently spends around £15millio a year replacing overhead line poles.

The THOR Hammer technology has been developed by New Zealand-based engineering firm Groundline. Vibrations are sent through the timber poles, allowing engineers to gather crucial data. This offers a huge improvement on current methods, facilitating a more accurate measurement of remaining pole strength and ensuring that pole life is maximised.

SP Energy Networks will continue extensive testing and trialling of the technology across its network in 2021.

Greg Shirley, innovation engineer at SP Energy Networks, said: “We know from experience that the worst winter storms can result in some power loss – particularly when major lines are hit by trees and other debris brought down by high winds. By identifying potential risks in advance, we can take action now to reduce the impact when the weather takes a turn for the worse.”

The data these devices collate includes detecting the presence of any internal decay, including below ground level without excavation, GPS-tagging measurement results, and predicting end of life of the poles examined. Previously, SP Energy Networks carried out all pole maintenance using its team on the ground and excavation work often took weeks to complete.