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1. To establish a failure measure on existing design of cross-arms for TNB overhead

transmission tower.

2. To provide a preventive measure (short-term solution) on existing design of cross-arms

for overhead TNB transmission tower.

3. To provide a corrective measure (long-term solution) on existing design of cross-arms

for overhead TNB transmission tower.


Historically, wood has been again the traditional material preferred and used by

network companies around the world due to its strength, durability, and electrical

properties. In Malaysia, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), Chengal (Neobalanocarpus)

wood or timber were used as cross-arms on 132kV suspension towers in 1963 after a

successful performance excellent mechanical strengths and good arc-quenching (flashover)

during lightning strikes was recorded on 66kV towers which was first commissioned in

1929.[1, 2] By the year 90s, Malaysia has recently put in service an all 132kV quadruple

circuit line and is currently considering the design of a dual-voltage 275kV/132kV

quadruple circuit line as shown in Fig. 1 of (a) and (b) below. Clearly, the integrity of such

a line is of vital importance and it is necessary to know its lightning performance, in

particular its single-, double-, triple- and quadruple-circuit outage rate during operation in

order to compensate the conduction behavior of two types of cross-arms materials, viz.

wood and steel. The use of wooden cross-arms which have been rather successful in

improving the lightning performance of the 275kV and 132kV double-circuit line.[3, 4] The
275kV cross-arm is made from four pieces of Chengal timber woods, two struts and two

tie members and the 132kV design is made from three pieces of Chengal timber woods,

two struts and one tie. Due to its structural strength limitation, wooden cross-arms are used

only in light suspension tower while the heavy suspension and tension towers are fitted

with steel cross-arms and longer tension strings.[5]

Fig. 1: Malaysian typical 275kv/132kv quad-circuit transmission tower with all (a)

Wooden cross-arms and (b) Steel cross-arms.[4]

However, alternatives to wooden cross-arms have also been heavily investigated,

especially with materials such as steel and fiber composites; for example, fiberglass. That

is because, in the late 90s, it was found that matured Chengal can no longer be found easily

available to make good quality cross-arms. It was also found that these old woods started

to fail due to aging after more 24 years of service. Much later, in 2010, a defective wood

cross-arm was found after only 14 years of service. The cross-arm was found failed due

wood natural defect from the fungi and microorganism attacks. Few other cases were also

reported such as the flashover from the surge of lightning strike which has created an

urgency for finding alternatives to wood cross-arm rather than steel.[2]


In this failure measurement study, cross-arm is one of the main structures in an

electricity pole. The materials used for cross-arms in overhead distribution and

transmission lines by TNB on the existing designs are currently steel and wood. Steel is

always a conductor in any condition, so it does not have an insulation resistance. Whilst,

wood has low electrical strength at Alternating Current (AC) especially under wet

condition, and also low mechanical strength per unit weight.[6] The utilization of wood as

cross-arm was accepted to be predominant previously due to the circular segment

extinguishing property which empowers it to extinguish the bend started from lightning

strikes. Unfortunately, a few cases were given an account of fizzled cross-arm because of

lightning strikes after an immediate hit from lightning although having lightning strike

neutrality properties, as shown in Fig. 2 below.[2]

Fig. 2: Failed wooden cross-arm due to lightning strike.[2]

Besides that, Malaysia lies near the equator where it is characterized by high lightning

and thunderstorm activities. Observations performed by the Malaysian Meteorological

Services indicate that thunders occur 200 days a year in the tropics region of Malaysia.

Thunderstorms have been suspected to have caused between 50 and 60 percent of the

transient tripping in the transmission and distribution networks in TNB. [7] In the tropics,

lightning occurrences are higher in certain months. It is also reported that Southeast Asia

has sharp increases of lightning activity in April and October, particularly Malaysia which

experiences high ash rates in April to May and October to November. This is due to shifts

in the season from pre-monsoon to monsoon called inter-monsoon period which increases

the progression of thunderstorm activity. [8] The cross-arms removed from service indicated

the effects of surface aging as a result of the electrical field and atmospheric conditions

degrading the cross-arm surface. Plus, most flashovers took place around one of the main

fiberglass cross-arms. A few flashovers were around the strain rod of the cross-arms.[9]


As the cost and time being the crucial elements in providing the best adequate

solutions for the deteriorating and failure of the wooden cross-arms, some

preventive measures have been proposed in order to overcome the problem in short-

term of life expectancy. The useful life and structural integrity of those wooden

overhead transmission cross-arms of TNB could be prolonged and aided by treating

the existing woods. Wood treatment refers to protecting wood from damage caused

by insects, fungi, decay, climate, and extreme weather conditions. Treating wood

with the right chemical preservatives can extend the life expectancy and protect it

from the harsh environment. Choosing the right wood preservative can save a utility

time, frustration, and money, whereas the three most common wood treatments


i. Pentacholorphenol (Penta);

ii. Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA);

iii. Creosote.

Each preservative has unique characteristics that are evaluated by utilities in

determining which preservative is best suited for use in a particular region of the

country. These decisions are based on a variety of factors, including the physical

and performance characteristics of the preservative, the location of the service area,

and the associated environmental, climatic and developmental characteristics of the

service area. In circumstances where one preservative may serve as effectively as

another in any particular setting; for instance, the use of Penta- or Creosote-treated
wood in hot, dry climates, other variables such as costs, supply, and worker

acceptability are important factors in selecting the type of treated wood used in a

particular setting.

Penta treatment is the preferred option over CCA- and Creosote-treated wood

for use in overhead transmission cross-arms for a number of reasons. Cross-arms

are constantly exposed to direct sunshine, differential drying, and shrinking occurs.

The differential stresses cause severe twisting and warping of cross-arms, a physical

action that strains electrical wires. The strains are often severe enough to cause

unplanned electrical outages. This type of failure risk is plainly unacceptable from

an operational perspective. Thus, the oil carrier for Penta prevents exaggerated

warping of cross-arms by preventing extreme drying of the wood. From an aesthetic

and operational perspective, however, Creosote is rarely requested by utilities for

treatment of cross-arms because, over time, there may be drippage onto wires,

insulators, or electrical equipment located below the cross-arms on the same pole.

Penta-treated cross-arm may have greater flex (due to oil content) than CCA-treated

cross-arm, which are dry and stiffer. Creosote may be specified in areas prone to

impact loads such as ice and/or wind which is not common in the tropic region of

Malaysia. Moreover, Penta is oil-borne and the oil repels rain and moisture from

the cross-arm surface, thus, contributing to reduced decay. The oil also reduces

checking and splitting which minimizes physical avenues that would otherwise

allow easy access for insects and fungi to interior cross-arm locations where

preservatives may not have penetrated.[10]


Fibreglass or glassfibre is material made from extremely fine fibers of glass. It

is used as a reinforcing agent for many polymer products; the resulting composite

material, properly known as fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) or glass-reinforced

plastic (GRP), is called "fibreglass" in popular usage. Fiberglass structural

composite material provide safe, corrosion resistant, nonconductive, fire retardant

work areas all at a higher strength-to-weight ratio than steel. The structural

integrity of the material offers a superior strength-to-weight ratio compared to

metals and resist the corrosive effects of harsh environments, especially those

saturated with acids, caustics, and extreme humidity.

From one investigation performed, the improvement of the cross-arm lightning

insulation or dielectric strength and its long-life expectancy can be achieved using

another alternative material as medium; fiberglass. Fiberglass has superior

properties compared to other materials. Its properties in nonconductivity and high

mechanical strength-to-weight ratio make fiberglass cross-arm supersede steel

cross-arm and wood cross-arm.[6] As its insulation level is high enough to cater the

flashover surged of the lightning strike, fiberglass is being installed widely over the

world. TNB should also consider the fiberglass substitution as the preferable

alternatives for lightning proof overhead transmission line and/or tower. Fig. 3

below is showing one of the type of fiberglass cross-arm configuration system,

whereby the fiberglass cross-arm used in multiple-insulation component. The

overhead transmission fiberglass cross-arms can be installed on the pole structure

with a combination of fiberglass strain rod. If the insulation length of a strain rod,

L'', is not proportional with the insulation length of fiberglass cross-arms, L', the
flashover may occur around the strain rod instead around the fiberglass cross-arm,

which then making the fiberglass alternatives among the most reliable configuration

of cross-arms for overhead transmission tower ever used.[6]

Fig. 3: Transmission fiberglass cross-arm system installed on the pole

structure with a combination of fiberglass strain rod, whereby; (a) Top view (b)

Front view.[6]

In conclusion, these failure measurement study concluded that the existing materials

used for cross-arms in overhead distribution and transmission lines by TNB are wood and

steel. These two materials are susceptible to many risks of degrading attacks or effects and

while all of the three preservatives discussed above are designed to prevent decay, the

preservatives are not always interchangeable, because decay is not a function of identical

decay-causing organisms or environments. In fact, decay-causing conditions and organisms

vary depending on the type of wood that is used and the environment the wood is used in.

As a result, the three-different wood-preservative formulations are applied for short-term

preventive measure. Plus, the preservatives also have certain associated risks of side-effects

to the person handling them and environment which regulated the usage of Penta for not

self-application. Moreover, the corrective measure that should be taken by TNB in order to

overcome the cross-arm problems can be suggested for another reliable material

substitution of fiberglass composite. When taking all parameters into the account,

especially in dielectric or insulation strength and long-life expectancy performance,

fiberglass cross-arm composite can be used in place of other conventional cross-arms

(wood and steel).


[1] Boon, K. T. (2009). A study on the usage of wooden poles and crossarms in the New

Zealand electricity network industry (Bachelors thesis). Retrieved from New Zealand

Dryland Forests Initiative.

[2] I. Mohamed Rawi, M. S. A. Rahman, M. Z. A. Ab. Kadir, & M. Izadi. (2017). Wood

and fiberglass crossarm performance against lightning strikes on transmission towers.

Paper presented at the IPST - International Conference on Power Systems Transients.

Seoul, Republic of Korea.

[3] A. C. Liew. (1993). Assessment of the Lightning Performance of Quadruple-Circuit

Transmission Lines with Steel and Wooden Crossarms. Journal of Electric Power

Systems Research, 27. 91-97. Retrieved from

[4] A. C. Liew, & P. C. Thum. (1993). Comparative Studies of Lightning Performance of

a Quadruple-Circuit Dual Voltage 275/132kv Transmission Line Design with Wooden

Crossarms. Journal of IEEE Transactions on Power Delivery, 8, 1973-1980. Retrieved


[5] Siti Rugayah Dugel. (2007). Insulation coordination of quadruple circuit high voltage

transmission lines using ATP-EMTP (Bachelors thesis). Retrieved from Universiti

Teknologi Malaysia Institutional Repository.

[6] Grzybowski, S., & Disyadej, T. (2008). Electrical performance of fiberglass crossarm

in distribution and transmission lines. Paper presented at the Transmission and

Distribution Conference and Exposition. Chicago, USA.

[7] Noradlina Abdullah, Mohd Pauzi Yahaya, & Nadiah Salwi Hudi. (2008).

Implementation and use of lightning network in Malaysia. Paper presented at the 2nd

IEEE International Conference on Power and Energy. Johor Baharu, Malaysia.

[8] I. Mohamed Rawi1, M. Z. A. Ab. Kadir, & M. Izadi. (2017). Seasonal Variation of

Transmission Line Outages in Peninsular Malaysia. Pertanika Journal of Science and

Technology, 25, 213-220. Retrieved from

[9] Grzybowski, S., & Jenkins, E. B. (1993). AC and Lightning Performance of Fiberglass

Crossarms Aged in 115 KV Transmission Line. Journal of IEEE Transactions on

Power Delivery, 8, 1914-1920. Retrieved from

[10] Zak, J. (2005). Unique operational characteristics of Creosote, Pentachlorophenol,

and Chromated Ccopper Arsenate as wood pole and cross-arm preservatives.

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