A dedicated Springville group will rise before dawn for the next month hoping to photograph that elusive find, the electrical hot spot.
Crews from the power department will use an infrared camera, on loan from the Western Area Power Association to identify portions of wire that are damaged and give off too much heat. The extra heat can destroy a wire, which will break the energy flow and cause a power failure."The infrared camera works best just before the sun rises or on an overcast day," Cal Baxter, supervisor of Springville's electrical department, said. "The lens shows heat, so it doesn't work as well later in the day when everything is warm."
Most power lines that are out of reach have no insulation, according to officials. Wires can become dirty or corroded by the elements or overuse. The damaged areas conduct electricity less effectively, and allow heat to escape. Baxter wants to identify and repair the hot spots before they cause power failures.
"Sometimes we just have to clean the wires, and sometimes we have to replace them," he said.
Last month, Baxter sent two members of his line crew to study the infrared equipment in Wyoming.
"The equipment is a little tricky to use, but there is no other way to identify hot spots. The lens unit is in a 12 by 6 by 4 inch box that has to be focused. It looks like an old-fashioned camera, and there is a place to attach a Polaroid camera if a picture is wanted.
"We point the unit at power lines, especially at stress points, and if there is heat, it looks like an orange light."
Baxter said the project helps meet a Western Power Association requirement that towns of Springville's size have four energy conservation projects. He said Springville has eight.
"One will require rebuilding the Brookside area distribution system. We also want to replace our mercury vapor street lamps with high-pressure sodium lights, which give a lot more light for the money. And some of our power poles are starting to deteriorate and let the wires sag. If the upper and lower wires touch, it would create a power outage.
"We also want to replace the drops into each home and check the calibration of meters. If meters run too fast, residents are losing money, and if they run too slow, the city loses money."
Baxter said he doesn't know exactly how much money or power the efficiency measures would save.
He added that it is gratifying to make a municipal electrical system more efficient because the money goes to the city and benefits the people.
"I guess the council decides if power rates should go down or if the extra money should be used for other programs, but either way, taxpayers benefit from the money we can save."