Pole position
Fibreglass North expects prototype by year's end

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 24/99) - When a scientist looks at your invention and can't decide what's more dramatic, the machine you've made or the product the machine you've made produces, you're probably onto something big.

"It's so close to the (successful) end. There is no realistic reason for this machine not to work, unless it's money," Vladimyr Burachynsky said.

"This is an incredibly innovative process. I could (make) bus bodies or railway cars on this. I want one," he said.

Burachynsky, a material scientist with the University of Manitoba, is talking about a new kind of transmission pole system being designed and built by Fiberglass North.

Burachynsky and engineer Sherif Ibrahim were at Fiberglass North last week checking out the pole-making machine. They are assisting with the engineering; the right combination of fibreglass strands and resin to give the right strength with the desired weight.

Once the transmission pole prototypes are complete, they will be shipped to the University of Manitoba where Burachynsky and Ibrahim will smash them up to see how strong they are. Other poles will be sent to Power Tech, part of BC Hydro, for testing.

Just making the pole is not enough. It must have scientific backing to show it can do what its makers say it can.

"We'll sell you an engineered pole," Fiberglass North production manager Bruce Elliott said.

Elliott, with a small team of designers and mechanics, says the first prototypes should be completed by Christmas with testing in the new year.

Fiberglass North is a division of Canzeal Enterprises Ltd., which is owned by Bruce and Sandra Elliott.

The company has applied for Canadian and U.S. patents for the new system. Elliott estimates there are only about half a dozen companies in North America working on a way to manufacture this product. The lone Canadian company is his company in Yk, he said.

The economic and environmental implications of this product are staggering.

"We could make $1 million worth of poles a day and that would be just four per cent of the (annual) Canadian market," Elliott, a native New Zealander, said.

Elliott says the transmission pole market is worth $7 billion a year in North America. Ideally, he would not only like to make the poles but also franchise the machine worldwide.

Fiberglass North's poles will cost more to make than conventional wooden, concrete or steel poles, but they have characteristics -- like longevity and lightness -- that make them price-competitive.

"We've had calls from Sweden," Elliott said. They are looking for a composite pole to replace existing transmission poles.

"For every pole we make we'll save a tree," he said. We are running out of trees big enough to make 20-metre poles, he said.

Fiberglass North's poles will be built in two pieces. Base diameter of the poles will be 65 centimetres while the top will have a diameter of 30 centimetres.

Fibreglass poles are safer, Elliott also said.

"BC Hydro said, 'What happens when it gets hit by a car?' I said 'Do you want the people to survive or do you want the pole to survive,'" Elliott said.

"We've got a survivable car accident and a repairable pole."

If a car slams into a fibreglass pole, the pole snaps and the top half hangs from the lines. This means the lines are not compromised and transmission continues, he explained.

Gosh, you could even make fibreglass poles in different colours. Go green, blue, brown, whatever.

Please see page B3 for related story on Fiberglass North.