They’re made from a range of different hardwoods, from spotted and rose gum to blackbutt.

While not the most exciting piece of the electricity network, you could argue, they’re definitely close to the most important.

They are the humble power pole and right now there’s the very real possibility that the way Ergon tests to make sure they’re structurally sound, could be in for its biggest change in 15 years.

“It’s a very logical time to do a structured evaluation of how we test poles,” Ben Sanderson, Ergon’s Maintenance Program Manager Lines said.

“The way we do things now is by drilling small holes to test the integrity of the poles, we also dig around the base of any pole over 15 years old.

“And we’re doing that on 250-thousand poles a year,” Mr Sanderson said.

A five week trial

Some poles may have several holes due to previous rounds of the inspection cycle.

As part of Ergon’s Asset Inspection and Defect Management Optimisation Program, non-destructive testing is currently being trialed in Far North Queensland to see if newer technologies might have less of an impact on the structural integrity of the poles.

.Testing on power poles

“We’re looking at a range of technologies that have been developed in recent years.

“Acoustic waves, sonar, ultrasonic, radar and even micro-drilling are all being tested.

“We’re analysing results from poles in drier areas of the region and also from parts that get much more rainfall.

“It’s being conducted over a five week period and what we are looking at achieving is the same safety and reliability but with a financial saving and if we can get that, then that’s a good result for Ergon and our customers.

“At present we’re spending 150-million dollars a year on asset inspection and maintenance of our poles and wires network.

“If there’s a better way to test, then it makes smart business sense for us to look at it,” Mr Sanderson said.