International Conference on Applications of Statistics and Probability in Civil Engineering (ICASP) (12th : 2015)

Cost-effective design and maintenance of timber power distribution poles in a changing climate Ryan, Paraic C.; Stewart, Mark G.; Spencer, Nathan


There are approximately five million timber power distribution poles in service across Australia worth over $10 billion. Investment in timber power pole infrastructure is even greater in the United States, with an estimated 120 to 200 million U.S. treated poles currently in service. Despite the scale of timber power pole infrastructure assets worldwide, limited research has been carried out to better enhance network maintenance and management efficiency. This paper sets out to examine the structural reliability and performance of timber power pole networks under current and future climatic conditions. The hazards of interest are storm winds and timber decay - both of which may worsen due to a changing climate. The paper presents a case study for Brisbane, Australia, which examines the possible impacts of climate change on power distribution infrastructure. Monte-Carlo stochastic methods were utilised in the form of an event-based sequential model to estimate the climate change impacts over a period from 2015 to 2070, under various climate change scenarios. It was found that predicted climate change impacts are significant, with the analysis indicating that annual pole failures rates could increase by up to 97% under the most severe climate change scenario. The appropriateness of two climate adaptation strategies is also examined herein, via a probabilistic cost-benefit analysis. These adaptation strategies incorporate alterations to power pole design and network maintenance procedures. The analysis indicates that measured changes to design and maintenance procedures can result in cost-effective climate adaptation strategies, leading to a notable reduction in potential climate change risks.

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