As long as there have been telegraph wires, wooden utility poles were used to secure transmission lines. More than 100 years later, wooden poles retain their popularity for telephone, electricity and data transfer cables.
Though fabricated steel poles and concrete poles are also used for these purposes, wooden poles are still used frequently. There are some 100 million poles being used today. There are several advantages to wooden poles:
- Cost- Pressure treated wood poles are a cost effective alternative, with ease of installation. Wooden poles can be installed via a drilled hole and no special foundation is needed to set the poles upright;
- Useful life-Current treated wood poles have an estimated useful life of between 40 and 80 years, double the useful life in the past;
- Weight-wooden poles are lighter than concrete poles;
- Ease of customization-poles can be easily cut to size, on site if necessary with only the use of a chain saw or other cutting tool;
- Corrosion resistance-wooden poles are not subject to the corrosion of galvanized metal poles;
- Flexibility-wood has a natural flexibility that allows the pole to bend lightly in high wind areas;
- Insulation properties-wooden poles are natural insulators of electricity.
Utility companies most often use CCA treated poles for modern jobs. CCA or Chromated Copper Arsenate. The poles are impregnated with CCA so the mixture does not wear away like a topical solution. It acts are both an insect and fungus deterrent. It is injected via a pressurization process. Companies can also inject a mineral oil solution to act as water repellant, further preventing wood rot.
In the past, some companies may have clear cut forests to harvest wood for poles. Today, quality companies practice forest management, carefully selecting trees for harvest and replanting seeds or young shoots to replenish growth areas. This method permits quality control and limits damage to the environment. After their useful life has expired, old poles may be recycled into other wood products. Old poles can be simply removed from the ground and transported to a recycling center or other job site.