(This letter was sent when Western Australia was experiencing a spate of pole-top fires (some of which led to wildfires with loss of life and property) and power blackouts due to failures and accidents involving overhead power cables)

Electrolyte power pipes - a new safe technique for electric power transmission

There is an alternative to overhead powerlines which should be safer, cheaper, and could lead to a new WA industry.

That is to supply electric current through a conducting liquid (electrolyte) held in plastic pipes buried in the ground.

Unlike metal wires, these power pipes could be of a size to carry any current, from major trunk lines down.

This would mean the end of pole-top fires and powerline bushfires, blackouts due to metal cables broken in storms or car accidents, and visual pollution from poles and pylons.

No exposed power cables should mean less loss of life through electrocution. Three-phase power could run in pipes within an outer, neutral-electrolyte pipe which could be set up to cut off instantly in the event of damage to the buried pipes.

While R&D funds would be needed to get this technique underway, it should generate patents, technical know-how, and licenses to form a new industry which WA could lead.

David Noel
2005 Mar 11

[More detail on this technique is available at http://www.aoi.com.au/ideasbank/3122.htm].

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Last update 2005 Mar 13