Company Touts New Utility Pole

It's a woodpecker's worst nightmare: a utility pole made from the same synthetic materials that make the military's Apache attack helicopters virtually bulletproof.

According to the Associated Press, developers of the composite pole say it is lighter, stronger, cheaper and longer lasting than conventional wooden poles lines. In fact, the folks at Powertrusion 2000 International Inc. boldly predict that their invention could render wood poles virtually extinct.

Powertrusion president and CEO Daryl Turner touts the composite pole as a viable alternative to the five million wooden poles that string electric and phone. While wooden poles have a life span of perhaps 20 to 30 years, Powertrusion engineers say their pole, named PT2000, will last 80 years or more.

About two dozen utilities use composite poles, but the majority of companies have been hesitant to switch from time-tested wood and steel poles, according to Harry Ng of the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit group that assists the utility industry.

Powertrusion executives acknowledge that they face a tough sell but insist that their power pole contains technological improvements that will change the industry's thinking.

Turner got the idea for a composite utility pole in 1993 during a tour of the Boeing Co. plant in Mesa that manufactures Apache helicopters. The fuselage contains Kevlar, a composite that is also used to produce bulletproof vests for police.

The first Powertrusion pole is scheduled to roll off the assembly line this month at the company's factory in Bedford, PA. The pole is made by a process called pultrusion, in which composite materials are pulled through a heated die and come out of the machinery continuously. The pole can be cut to any length.

Turner says Powertrusion's greatest potential lies in developing countries that are eager to expand their infrastructure. The company has signed joint ventures with firms in the Philippines, China, Mexico, India, United Arab Emirates and Greece to manufacture and market the poles.