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The CIO Forum: The Changing Face of Energy I.T.

Budgets are expected to increase, even as new IT challenges present themselves.

Fortnightly Magazine - January 2006

5, Monday through Friday, and we just need a better way for people to walk in and do their business.

Look at what the banks have done to tag on to grocery stores or other facilities to provide better customer service: That’s what we’re looking to do. What we’re saying is, you’ll still have that payment channel, but maybe you’ll go to where you do your banking as well, or where you do some other business, some other local facility that you visit anyway—for instance, a senior center that might take your bills.

We’ll also enable more electronic transactions, especially for our younger customers in the state of California. That’s how they want to do business with our company.


Mark C. Williamson, VP– Major Projects

American Transmission Co.

Fortnightly: What transmission technologies does ATC use, and which have been the most effective?

Mark C. Williamson: To start at the beginning, our most effective technology is the old technology of poles and wires. There’s quite a bit of development in the wire technology, the conductor, but at its base we’re still using the old tried-and-true for the most part, other than some of the conductor technologies, which have improved. We’re still using primarily single monopole steel, although occasionally we use wood poles on lower-voltage things.

We do have improvements in some of the basics. Some of the concrete is now designed to make sure it doesn’t leech chemicals into wetlands and things, but it’s still very much nuts and bolts technology at its base. That’s the bread-and-butter work.

Conductor-wise, we have been increasingly using twisted conductor, which resists some of the galloping when you get freezing rain, when the wind actually forms a wing on the wire and it flies up and down—which causes bad things to happen when they run into each other. There are some new technologies and wire design that minimize these things.

We’ve experimented in different places with some more exotic emerging conductor technologies. At some of our scenic river crossings, we use a new ceramic-based conductor that has a ceramic core rather than a steel core, which you can pull up very tight. It doesn’t sag. The ceramic core resists a lot of the sagging properties of steel, so you can string it up almost like piano wire, at long distances across things like scenic river crossings, where you don’t want to see the poles on each end.

Fortnightly: What drives the experimentation with new technologies?

MCW: It’s two things. It’s the money on the other end. A lot of these things turn out to have lower life-cycle costs, and we’re starting to try to look at life-cycle costs rather than just first costs. For example, the galloping conductor thing. When you get galloping, it’s a maintenance nightmare to go out and make sure the conductor’s not scarred from flashovers or phase-to-phase faults. You’d have to go buff and polish and put protective shielding over it, because it causes a weakening of the conductor in that spot. If you can keep the conductor from galloping, you don’t