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Fibre optics on power lines
Roger Bryant
251 Posts
The latest online piece from E&T magazine informs us that Facebook Engineering has developed a system for wrapping fibre optic cables around overhead power lines.


This technique was actually developed by Raychem in the early 1980s and since then thousands of km have been installed.


The product line is know owned by AFL


Best regards

4 Replies
There used to be a presumably fibre-optic line wrapped around one of the phase conductors and terminated into the grey box on this pylon 53-11.707N 2-54.596W near to the Sealand Road Tesco branch. The fibre-optic line had what appear to be a moulded on insulator as it came off the phase conductor, I guess to prevent tracking if it were raining. Not sure if the fibre-optics are still there?. Some years back, MANWEB's main office used to be another half mile or so along this road.

Near to where I live,quite a few years ago, at least 20,  there used to be a fibre-optic line wrapped around the top earth wire. This the 132 kV Connah's Quay to Hawarden, Wood Lane sub-station line.
82 Posts
I guess we are talking about the same one Mariner, I went to BICC at Helsby and they showed me the fibre optic wrapped around the top conductor on what I think were 132kV lines that ran past our school, you could see it spiral wound and I can remember spotting it all over when we went places, probably en route to Liverpool, ICI etc
David Parr
288 Posts
I remember watching them adding these cables to the top grounding wire of the "supergrid" near where I live, and looking at the person up there and thinking that's not a job that I would choose!
Alan Capon
382 Posts
I agree with Roger. Although the machine looks new, the technology certainly isn’t. Trials were done wrapping earth wire between Fawley and Nursling back in the eighties as an alternative to replacing the earth wire with a conductor including an integral fibre. We (Manx Utilities, formerly Manx Electricity Authority) were I believe the first utility to use a BICC phase conductor at MV with an integral fibre back in the mid 90s. As part of this, a tracking resistant fibre cable was used to take the fibres down the pole. Since then, a number of UK utilities have successfully wrapped and used integral fibre at higher voltages. 

It is conceivable that the claim is a new machine that can climb over post-type insulators found at MV on certain types of line construction, albeit I suspect with the line dead.

It is also worth noting that on the UK supergrid, the Earth-wire wrapping machine could operate with the lines live, as long as the towers could be safely climbed live. The technology is fairly old, but the application may be new. It would be interesting to see an “unwrapping machine” at MV. These need far more precise control, and could (and sometimes did) tie themselves to the line with a large knot of the fibre Optic cable they were supposed to be collecting, resulting in the machine itself needing to be rescued! 




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