Next time you’re driving along one of Tempe’s streets and a behemoth utility truck looms alongside, don’t worry that an alien mothership has landed. It’s more likely SRP’s new aerial work platform, seemingly big enough to be an interplanetary space probe but small enough to fit into a Mill Avenue parking space.
Did someone say Smart car?
This virtually extra-terrestrial workhorse—tallest of its kind in the U.S.— can reach more than half the length of a football field but be maneuverable enough to repair 500 kilovolt transmission lines from the tightest of spaces.
That’s an important attribute, say SRP officials, to complement the utility’s efforts to ensure grid reliability so the power stays on for customers. The 88,980-pound vehicle, which runs on biodiesel, is called a Palfinger P650i. By design, it does what no other vehicle in SRP’s fleet does, such as extend 213 feet into the air, fit in more compact spaces and, with a five-axle chassis, easily maneuver and travel off road on desert terrain to maintain and repair remote transmission lines.
The “super-sized bucket truck” also allows SRP linemen to do so-called “bare-hand work” on energized 500 kV transmission lines without shutting off power. “The insulated fiberglass boom section of the truck allows linemen to bond on to the hot 500 kV line and work on the energized conductors without an outages,” said Jace Kerby, SRP Transmission Line Maintenance foreman.
The customized truck was manufactured in both Germany and Canada and assembled in New Jersey. It took a year to build and is now officially in service.
“We worked together to create the right size machine, and it is a one-of-a-kind unit because SRP also designed it to fit a specialized ‘spacer buggy’ on the platform, which allows the crew to ride on the power line and change spacers,” said Scott Sasser, Palfinger Platforms’ product and sales manager.
SRP’s Transportations Services Department designed the unit to be cost effective and environmentally responsible. Currently, SRP has about 2,300 vehicles — ranging from sedans to construction equipment like the Palfinger. Forty-one percent of the vehicles in SRP’s fleet are powered by B-20 biodiesel fuel, which is a blend of 20 percent vegetable oil and 80 percent diesel fuel. “The unit was customized precisely for SRPs needs,” said Brendan King, SRP Transportation Services engineer.
“It’s important for us to get equipment that’s very capable for our crews to improve their work practices and productivity so they can complete their job safely.”