BPA’s barehand crew is replacing insulators and other hardware on an energized transmission line near Washougal, Washington.


This work is good for BPA, its customers and people who live and enjoy the space around our rights-of-way.

 Marty Lyons, Foreman III 
The Bonneville Power Administrations’ barehand transmission line crew began replacing insulators and other hardware in southwest Washington earlier this summer. These components on the North Bonneville-Ross and North Bonneville-Troutdale 230-kilovolt transmission lines are essential to operating BPA’s system in reliable and safe manner. 

The barehand crew is qualified to work on “hot” transmission lines – lines that are still in service with electricity flowing through them. Performing work on live transmission lines allows BPA to bolster reliability and continue to provide electrical service to its customers. But safety is paramount, and that means not starting work until the conditions are right. 

One warm morning in August, Foreman III Marty Lyons delayed the day’s work until humidity dropped below 80%. 

“There is no actual hard industry rule – but the industry standard for performing work on live lines is humidity below 80%, so BPA uses that for the safety of the crew,” said Lyons.

After the humidity dropped, the crew sprang into action, replacing components like damaged and older insulators and other hardware that can wear out and cause unplanned power interruptions. 
“If we go too long before we replace insulators and other associated hardware, power can arc from the line and cause it to trip out of service or potentially start a fire,” said Lyons. “This work is good for BPA, its customers and people who live and enjoy the space around our rights-of-way.”

Scott Grabow, Foreman I, explains how working on energized lines is where reliability, revenue and safety intersect. “Keeping more lines in service helps BPA make money and provide reliable service,” he says.

Grabow stressed that the crew understands the importance of being mindful of safety, indicating it’s important to remember the line is energized with 230-kV of electricity flowing through it. 

“This is a great example of work Transmission Services is doing system-wide,” Scott Haugen, supervisory work planner scheduler. “We talk a lot about these guys when storms or other emergencies interrupt power, but it’s important to remember they are out there all year doing work like this to make sure BPA can keep the lights on. We ask a lot of them and I appreciate the work they do and the sacrifices they make.”

The crew, which started the work earlier this summer near North Bonneville Substation, will continue working its way west and complete the work before the end of September. 

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