How An Electrical Pole Survives A Lava Flow

Oct 30, 2014

Lava flows around the protected HELCO pole.
Credit HELCO

The molten lava creeping down the hill in Pahoa is consuming everything in its path.  Electric company officials feared the wooden utility poles in the path of the lava would burn down on contact, cutting off power to the area.  So workers with Hawaiian Electric Light Company sought advice from experts at UH Hilo and the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.  They settled on a design that would wrap the pole in a heat resistant coating.  Rhea Lee from Hawaiian Electric talks about the science. 

The first pole to make contact with the lava burned a little, but power to the area is still live, and the lava around the pole is cooling.

HELCO is also planning to move a generator into the area, should the lava flow damage other power supplies.