TLS’ Weekend Warriors Keep the Juice Flowing

By Jeff Norwood

During the last weekend in February while most of us were relaxing and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather, Transmission Line Services (TLS) was hard at work scaling 85-foot poles to make repairs to National Grid transmission lines, proactively preventing potential reliability issues for customers.

Crew members Jesse Correa, Corey Tutthill, and Tom Catusi work on the 85-foot transmission pole. They were supported on the ground by Patrick Minville, Dan Driscoll, Mike Pezzullo, and Geremy Shannon.

Earlier that week, a routine helicopter inspection revealed a significant issue on a transmission structure in Portsmouth, RI, on a circuit that runs between Fall River, MA, and Portsmouth, RI.  Two pins that secure the power lines to the structure were backing out — a serious condition that must be repaired within seven days of detection. Other, less serious conditions also were identified during the inspection on the same line and another one running parallel to it in the same right-of-way.

Kevin Souza, a TLS lead supervisor, noticing the severity of the issue, requested that the line be taken out of service on an emergency basis so repairs could commence immediately. It’s important to note that this did not create a service interruption for customers.

According to Kevin, a situation like this requires special safety protocols.  Before beginning the work, the crews installed “safeties” on the line.  This is special rigging that prevents the lines from falling during site prep, while installing grounds, or when the crews are climbing the poles, any of which might have created enough movement to knock out the loose pins holding the lines. The safeties were installed using the same methods required for working on energized lines because while the master grounds were installed, the personal grounds required for work at the location were not yet in place. Also, the crews could attach them from a safe distance using long, insulated”hot sticks.”  With the safeties in place, the crews could then install the proper grounding and rigging to make the repairs.  Of course, the crews wore the required PPE throughout the job, as well as fall protection equipment while on the poles.

This is a close-up of the pin that secures the phase to the structure. This photo was taken when the pin was loose before repairs were made.

The crews repaired the two pins on Saturday.  While they were up on the structure, they also noticed broken strands on the shield wire, which is attached to the highest location on the structure and is grounded to help protect the lines from lightning strikes. They were able to fix that and address the other issues that had been identified on that line.  On Sunday, a larger crew returned to the area and completed the remaining repairs to the other line.

“I am really proud of the great work TLS does,” said Brian Gemmell, FERC Jurisdiction vice president of Strategy and Performance.  “They are the unsung heroes of National Grid’s transmission reliability.”

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