Preserving the pi poles
Fermilab and the city of Batavia are working together to save the pi poles.
The Batavia City Council approved an agreement in late November.
Of the many reminders of Robert Wilson's legacy that riddle the Fermilab grounds, perhaps the most remarkable is the line of wooden power poles stretching north from Wilson Hall. The poles carry 345,000V of electricity and provide 98 percent of the site's power. They stand over 95 feet high, sink 12 feet into the ground and stretch for over 2 miles. And, of course, they look like the Greek letter pi.
But since their construction over 30 years ago, the Douglas fir poles have given FES more problems than satisfaction. Joe Pathiyil of FES remembers boron treatments and steel reinforcements to battle moisture, epoxy and steel mesh to fight woodpecker holes, and four pole replacements, all to little avail. A complete replacement looked likely, but there was one problem: funding. Replacing the poles would cost over $1.2 million.
Meanwhile, the city of Batavia was also having troubles. The city needed to run 138,000V of power to the east side of the city, but there was one problem: Fermilab. Circumventing the federally-owned site was financially impractical. After a series of talks, however, the DOE granted Batavia an easement to set up two power substations and their interconnecting power lines on Fermilab grounds. In return, the city will fully replace the aging pi-poles.
"The poles will be built specifically to look identical to the existing structures," said Randy Wielgos, assistant superintendent of the Electric Department for the
City of Batavia. The 19 total structures will require 582,000 pounds of painted steel and will be imported from PennSummit Tubular in Pennsylvania for installation during the accelerator shutdown this summer, Wielgos said.
An additional benefit of this agreement is the installation of two large on-site circuit breakers, also by Batavia, that will allow Fermilab to cut off power for maintenance with the flip of a switch and conduct site operations with much more flexibility. Currently ComEd/PJM requires up to 90 days notice for a power shutdown of their grid, according to Steve Krstulovich of FES. "That'll save a lot of time and energy," he said. "It's a win-win. Batavia wins, and we win."