Contributing to a sustainable world with the development of hollow power poles
has been the goal for Griffith’s Dr Benoit Gilbert and Ian Underhill.

The duo from the University’s School of Engineering are celebrating after receiving a $22,000 grant for their groundbreaking forestry research at the Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries

and Forestry.

Currently power poles are used by the electricity sector and are sourced from

plantations or naturally grown hardwood or greenhouse gas intensive steel.

Now Dr Gilbert is using his engineering experience in structural steel to combine with Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) Forest Science researchers to develop hollow poles made from waste Australian hardwood plantation thinnings.

Teaming up with Griffith senior technical officer Mr Underhill, who has created the

circular hollow power pole concept, the pair is now working to further enhance the


“This emerging area of research has the triple advantage of being kind to the environment, addressing the current shortage of power poles in the energy sector and increasing revenues for hardwood plantations,” said Dr Gilbert.

“By transforming these waste materials into a viable product we can provide a valuable mid-cycle return for plantation growers as well as overcome the issue of material shortages.

“We are now seeing more and more forests being taken off line and by 2020 we will no longer be able to log any crown-managed hardwood native forest in Queensland. Therefore utilising the waste products that we already have in

abundance will be of great benefit to the community and the environment.”

“Additionally, across Australia power poles were originally installed after the second world war and are now coming to their natural end of life,” said Mr Underhill.

“Our proposal for hollow power poles offers a very cost-effective and sustainable solution to the problem.”

As part of the research, a sample version of the circular hollow power pole has been fabricated but its strength still needs to be fully assessed. Through this research, full-scale versions will be manufactured and tested for structural integrity.

Dr Gilbert said the long-term vision of the team is to adapt the new poles to a wide

range of other uses including street and traffic lights, as well as housing and

shelter construction.