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What is a Power Transmission Tower?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 17, 2024
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A power transmission tower is a structure that plays an important role in bulk energy transfer systems. The basic role of this structure is to safely and effectively accommodate transmission lines. Such a structure, which is generally made of a metal such as galvanized steel, may also be referred to as a pylon.

Power can be transported overhead or underground. Overhead transport is generally considered the better option because maintenance and repair is easier and the costs are lower. Overhead transport can usually be identified when electrical wires are seen running between tall metal structures.

These wires are known as transmission lines, or conductors. The metal structures which keep the transmission lines off the ground are power transmission towers. These structures help facilitate the transportation of energy from the generating source to the substations where power is distributed.

Every power transmission tower is not built the same. They can vary in design and height. The variances are often affected by factors such as weather conditions and conductor type. A power transmission tower must be able to withstand the loads of the environment it is placed in. It must also be able to effectively keep the transmission lines separated.

If a person observes closely, he may notice that power transmission towers often have different lattice work. This refers to the design of the spaces which the transmission wires run through. If conductors are allowed to touch, or even get too close to one another, faults can occur. For this reason different lattice work is often necessary.

A closer observation should also reveal that transmission wires never come into direct contact with the power transmission tower. If the conductors are allowed to come into contact with this metal structure, electricity could use the structure as a vehicle to travel to the ground, causing a dangerous situation. For this reason, power transmission towers must be equipped with insulators that prevent this type of contact.

The type of conductor is one of the factors that affects the load because some conductors are heavy. Copper wire, for example, is a good conductor, but it is much heavier than aluminum wire, which can also be very efficient. If aluminum conductors are used instead of copper, it is likely that fewer power transmission towers will need to be erected, thereby resulting in savings.

Power transmission towers are not suitable under all circumstances. These structures require land upon which they can be placed. In densely populated areas, this may not be available, thereby making the use of such structures unfeasible. Power transmission towers can also decrease property value. In instances where there are plans to develop land in the future or when land is historically preserved, erection of such structures may be prohibited.

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Discussion Comments

By anon343619 — On Aug 01, 2013

@Comparables: I think there's no harm due to power transmission equipment. Actually, the mobile phone towers are the culprits because they have a negative effect on the health of the people living in the surroundings.

By Comparables — On May 06, 2011

Is it true that power transmission equipment can emit radiation and cause cancer? I was looking at houses near some high voltage lines, and the prices were really cheap. A friend told me it would not be a good buy because the transmission lines emit low frequency radiation and have long-term health effects. Can someone clarify this information for me?

By GiraffeEars — On May 04, 2011

@FrameMaker- That is crazy. You could not pay me enough to climb on a live wire with half a million volts coursing through it.

I saw an internet video the other day about power transmission lines. There was a problem with a line switch at a transmission switching station. The plant operators did an experiment to determine what the problem was. When the switches separated, an arc of electricity was created that shot 100 feet into the air. The video operators said the arc was due to gases and plasma vaporizing in the air above the switch and nothing for it to arc to. The experiment was impressive, but I think it would be something scary to see in person.

By FrameMaker — On May 02, 2011

I saw a show the other day about workers who have to fix these high voltage power lines. It is a crazy job. These people fly alongside these lines while hanging out of the side of a helicopter. When they get close enough, they actually touch the lines with a metal rod, and transfer onto these lines like a bird on a wire.

Once on the wire, these people are literally encased in electricity, reaching the same relative voltage as the lines. This is all due to the special suit that they wear. The suit has a thin, conductive metal mesh woven into the fireproof fabric. This Faraday suit prevents the dangerous currents from entering the body. Think of it like the magician standing in a metal cage while a Tesla coil arcs large streamers of electricity at the cage.

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