H-SAN LUIS OBISPO

May 10, 2013 7:08 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

Choppers and real life daredevils used to replace transmission towers

You may have noticed helicopters and power crews hovering around the Cuesta Grade this week.

It's all part of PG&E's plan to replace 42 steel transmission towers.

It looked like a stunt right out of a Hollywood blockbuster.

"I suspect there's a certain sense of adventure there," said project manager Lee Ellis.

It was an adventure not for the faint of heart.

Workers were dangling more than 300 feet off the ground tethered to the bottom of a helicopter.

Because access to transmission towers is so limited, expert pilots were brought in to transport the workers.

"They go through extensive training to long line in, from the bottom of the line on the helicopter to the top of the towers," said Ellis.

Once perched atop the 100 foot tower, crews help guide the choppers carrying the two to five thousand pound sections into place.

"The new towers will also have new conductor, the existing conductor has been through earthquake and fire," said Ellis.

The project replaces the 80 year old towers along an eight mile stretch from the top of the Cuesta Grade to PG&E's San Luis Obispo substation.

"The complete tower replacement like we see here is pretty rare, we do a lot more where we raise towers, and then replace lines on existing towers, so this is somewhat unique that it's a full tower replacement," said Ellis.

This is the final phase of the project that began in 2011.

PG&E also replaced 132 wooden utility poles with light duty steel poles they say are more resilient against weather and fire.

The project is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

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