Northern Powergrid promotes new sustainable wood manufacturing method

4 July 2018 (Last Updated July 4th, 2018 12:05)

UK-based distribution network operator Northern Powergrid is promoting a new sustainable wood pole manufacturing technique that reduces the use of necessary materials by up to 85%.

Northern Powergrid promotes new sustainable wood manufacturing method
The right kind of pine tree needs to be sourced to create the current poles. Credit: Jason Leem on Unsplash

UK-based distribution network operator Northern Powergrid is promoting a new sustainable wood pole manufacturing technique that reduces the use of necessary materials by up to 85%.

It has urged energy and construction companies to support the development of British start-up company Pollywood to help it deliver environmental benefits in global markets.

With the support of Northern Powergrid, Pollywood has developed a strong construction material with a better weight-to-strength ratio than steel by using only a fraction of the raw materials.

The innovation comes after a project was originally kickstarted by international innovation broker the Energy Innovation Centre (EIC).

More firms are now being urged to become involved in order to bring the product to market.

“A materials innovation exercise showed nearly 200 potential uses across more than ten industrial sectors, making it a British-grown innovation.”

Pollywood managing director Steve Crighton said: “We’ve started to develop it for the electricity industry; however, a materials innovation exercise showed nearly 200 potential uses across more than ten industrial sectors, making it a British-grown innovation that could change the face of construction and open up a new lease of life for the British wood industry with a new sustainable, valuable material.”

The support from Northern Powergrid and the EIC’s £106,000 investment advanced this project from initial conception to Technology Readiness Level 3 within 24 months.

An additional £1.4m investment is required for Pollywood to develop new machinery that is capable of creating larger structures and advance to Technology Readiness Level 9, following which it will become ready for launch.

Pollywood is incorporating a new manufacturing method that develops a lightweight,  hollow product, which is capable of replacing earlier solid structures.

Approximately 60,000 new wooden electricity poles are required every year in the UK, with another 50,000 are needed by the telecoms industry. Moreover, the current poles can take up to 18 months to source and deliver, as the right type of pine tree needs to be sourced.

These trees also need to be treated with creosote, a carcinogenic substance that is being phased out across the EU.

To address these challenges, Pollywood invented a new manufacturing approach, which can create six to seven hollow wooden poles from one tree with no creosote required.

These tubular poles are made by sustainably combining the raw materials to create a long-lasting, lightweight and cost-effective product made from wood fibre and natural bio-based resins.

Initial tests have ensured that the material exceeds the present industry standard for electricity poles.

Generally, one tree can only create one pole; however, with the new approach, Pollywood would be able to save more than 90,000 trees a year. This will reduce the amount of raw material and fuel required to ship the materials from mainland Europe, as well as cut pole manufacturing times.

Northern Powergrid intends to use Pollywood’s poles across its operations. It provides power to 3.9 million homes and businesses through more than 17,500 miles of overhead power lines, which are supported with solid wooden poles.