A system developed for de-icing power lines during winter storms
Daylife/AP Photo by Mike Groll
Dartmouth engineering professor…Victor Petrenko, along with his colleagues at Dartmouth and at Ice Engineering LLC…have invented a way to cheaply and effectively keep ice off power lines.
The new proprietary technology is called a variable resistance cable (VRC) de-icing system. With only minor cable modifications plus some off-the-shelf electronics, the system switches the electrical resistance of a standard power line from low to high. The high resistance automatically creates heat to melt ice build-up or keep it from forming in the first place.
“The beauty of the VRC system is that it’s fully customizable and is an affordable addition to the current manufacturing and installation process,” said Gabriel Martinez, Ice Engineering’s Vice President. “And it works without causing any service interruption whatsoever,” he added.
Ice Engineering plans to install and test a full-scale VRC system prototype on a section of power line in Orenburg, Russia, in late January 2009. The company is also currently negotiating full-scale installations of VRC in other regions of Russia and in China.
Martinez says the changes in manufacturing and installation required to implement the VRC system would result in a less than 10 percent increase in overall cost. Since utility companies normally replace 3 percent of their cables every year, the system could be installed as part of the regularly scheduled maintenance process and still achieve a significant portion of the installation by the time the next major storm hits.
Furthermore, the life span of the de-icing system would match or exceed the life-span of the utility cable, approximately 30–50 years. The system would pay for itself during the next storm by practically eliminating the cost of fixing downed cables and power outages due to ice and snow.
Looks like a boon to regions with climates that have icing problems. I certainly recall – with no joy at all – those long spells after snow-and-ice storms in New England – when we had to make do without electricity.