Walk around any neighborhood and look up. Chances are you’ll see a utility pole with wires and other equipment. And for good reason. Utility poles dot the landscape of every town around the state and most of the country. They form the highway above us that keeps everyday life in order. In fact, there are about 180 million utility poles across the United States – that’s about one pole for every other person in the country.
Utility poles have been around since the mid-1800s when they were originally erected to carry telegraph wires. The rise of electricity brought a new use to the poles. Outfitted with insulators, the poles could carry electricity from generating stations to individual homes and businesses. Today these poles are still the backbone of our electrical grid.
Ever wonder how the poles support the delivery of electricity or what these poles hold? Here’s your guide to the anatomy of a pole and some interesting facts you may not already know about them.
PSEG Long Island has 545,068 poles across its service territory. Of that, 324,692 are owned by the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA); 214,977 are owned by Verizon; and 5,399 are consumer-owned. On Long Island, the ownership of the utility poles is established via an agreement between the LIPA and Verizon.
Poles come in different sizes. Utility poles on the island range between 20 feet and 140 feet tall. The most common PSEG Long Island pole is 35 feet and and there are 256,354 of them.
Power lines are not the only wires on a pole. Wires at the top of the pole deliver your electricity and belong to PSEG Long Island. Wires below the electric portion deliver your telephone, cable TV and fiber optic services and are owned by those providers.
Transformers help provide the right amount of power for your home or business. The big barrel that looks like an oil drum is the transformer that reduces voltage so customers can use it. Transformers bring the electricity down to a safe level – enabling our appliances to work properly.
Power lines don’t actually touch the poles. Instead, insulators – the things that look like dinner plates or cups attached to the line — prevent energized wires from contacting each other. And remember, that if a wire ever comes down, stay away and call PSEG Long Island at 800-490-0075 to report it right away.
Poles are made of wood and are recycled when taken out of use. Most utility poles in the United States are made of southern yellow pine and have a life of approximately 25 to 50 years. Once they’ve reached their useful lives, poles are burned for energy or recycled, depending on the material used.
So next time you turn on the lights, it’s not magic; it’s that pole outside that safely provides electricity at the flip of a switch.