In a spectacular display of innovation, technology, bravery and a $10 million budget, Pacific Gas and Electric is using helicopters to make repairs to the electrical lines running parallel to the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge.
Two workers were suspended from helicopters and dropped about 200 to 300 feet in the air to access the electric tower in the Bay closest to Foster City yesterday. The project was initiated in September and will run through the end of the year.
“It’s a method we pioneered called long-lining. It’s much more efficient,” said PG&E spokesman Jason King.
The technique allows PG&E to work on more remote towers in the Bay, valleys, woods and places that aren’t as accessible by road, King said. Yesterday, it made repairs to the conductors that support the line and it will use the same technique to string the new lines, King said.
“It’s a proactive replacing of equipment to add additional capacity and reliability to our customers in the Bay Area,” King said.
About a year and a half ago it used long-lining to repair electric towers further out from the bridge and the current project is working on the lines connecting the PG&E substation in Hayward to the substation in San Mateo, King said.
The helicopter took off from a landing pad at the Hayward substation, King said. Two workers were harnessed and carried equipment as they hung from the helicopter during flight. The first worker was dropped off around 11 a.m. then a second worker was flown in carrying a ladder.
The current lines have been there since the 1950s, King said. The new electric wires are composed of aluminum and a steel core, don’t sag as much and can carry more power than traditional copper wires, King said. Because these towers are located in the Bay, they deteriorate from weather conditions such as harsh wind and salt. The new electric wires are similar in diameter to the old ones, but they’re higher capacity and have better insulation, allowing them to last longer, King said.
The project will run until the end of the year and PG&E plans on continuing to use the long-lining technique because “using helicopters is the most efficient, safe and fastest way for us to do the job,” King said. PG&E is proactively preparing for the imminent population growth in the Bay Area.
“Part of the purpose of this project is beyond being able to meet our goals of safety, reliability, affordability and service,” King said. “It’s to anticipate and serve the future needs of our customers, both residential and business, on the Peninsula.”
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