The electric power business is all about dependability. Utilities strive for it. Reliability is a reputation-builder.

Utility poles can have real staying-power. Some of these poles have been around for a while. They are part of the archeology of the industry.

Here’s one story from New England. It is courtesy of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF), based in Asheville, NC.

“Why do most people visit Cape Cod? Is it to capture the quintessential view of New England, stroll the lovely beaches, or peruse its quaint village shops? If you are a real chestnut nerd you should also include a visit to one of the last American chestnut utility poles still in use!”

The pole shown here was installed in 1928 in the town of Harwich, located in the center of Cape Cod’s arm. A real treat is to view the inspection tags nailed to the pole that document the history of its existence: 2018, 1990, 1986, and 1968. Two tags, from the 1940s and 1920s, have been lost to the elements but survived by the pole. (below)

While the surrounding poles have been replaced, this one remains as a testament to the American chestnut’s fortitude. The work of TACF’s members, volunteers, and colleagues aims to return this amazing resource to the ecology and economy of the eastern U.S. and beyond.

Closer to home, crews at Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, Pickens, South Carolina, found some utility pole archeology of their own in Oconee County. (below)

The coop’s VP of Operations was at a job site near an elementary school when a retired line worker tipped him off to a still-working wooden utility pole with a 1937 “birthmark,” or brand. Cooperative magazine reported, “It had belonged to the South Carolina Rural Electrification Authority, a precursor to electric co-ops in the state during the 1930s. Blue Ridge Electric was organized in 1940.”

Upgrading utility poles and other infrastructure that is an ongoing effort. For instance, Florida Power and Light has been (Source):

  • Hardening main power lines that serve critical community facilities and services.
  • Upgrading or replacing power poles and inspecting 150,000 of the company’s 1.3 million power poles each year.
  • Replacing wooden transmission structures with new ones of steel or concrete. By 2022, 100 percent of transmission structures will be steel or concrete.

So look for those old poles while you can. They are getting scarce.