Steel Utility Poles

Steel Utility Poles

Advantages of Steel for Utility Poles

Steel’s profile as a green material has led to growing interest in replacing aging wood electric utility distribution poles with poles made of steel. A detailed life cycle assessment study published in 2013 finds that replacing wood utility poles with galvanized steel utility poles results in several significant environmental benefits, including lower levels of greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions associated with global climate change; a lower burden on critical energy resources; reduced impacts on the habitats of many threatened and endangered species; and reduced impacts associated with hazardous emissions and wastes.

These findings provide data that contradict the traditional wood industry claims of being a superior sustainable material. Steel utility distribution poles have a number of clear advantages over competing materials (treated wood and concrete). These include ease of installation, reliability, durability, life cycle cost and environmental considerations. An estimated 2.5 million wood poles are replaced annually.

Since 1998, close to one million steel distribution poles have been installed and are now being used by over 600 of 3,100 U.S. electric utilities. Here are some reasons why they made the switch:

  • Fabricated with uniform dimensions
  • Easy to install
  • Durable
  • Easy to maintain
  • Lower in life cycle costs
  • A solution to EPA regulations and deforestation issues
  • Superior in strength
  • Impervious to insects and rot
  • Free of toxic chemical treatments or hazardous waste concerns
  • 100% recyclable

Additional Resources

Top Reasons To Purchase Steel Distribution Poles


The steel structures do not require a full length copper grounding wire. They are self conducting for grounding purposes. Provisions for grounding are provided on each pole and pre-drilling for removable safety steps is available.


Weighing approximately 50-70% less than comparable wood structures, the steel poles are easier and less expensive to handle and install.


Poles can be provided either for embedded or anchor base installations, which reduces your application limitations. Steel poles can be custom designed and fabricated to support larger and heavier loadings with longer spans as well as being able to meet greater height requirements. More options can mean fewer poles to purchase and install.


The poles can be pre-drilled to accommodate special customer framing requirements and most existing hardware can easily be used on steel structures.


Constant taper without twists, knots, splits, or bows provide uniform diameters every time. Steel also has uniform material strength throughout the entire structure providing consistent and predictable results.

Corrosion Protection

A variety of finishes are available with steel: galvanized, paint over galvanized (powder coat or liquid), dulled and darkened galvanizing with below grade coatings. Ground sleeves are available if additional protection is required.


Steel poles are an answer to EPA regulations and deforestation issues. The poles are non-toxic, which reduce disposal problems or costs and they can be reused or recycled.


After installing steel poles, you do not have to re-tighten hardware later due to pole shrinkage. Steel retains its shape and strength and isn’t susceptible to damage by woodpeckers, insects, rot, or fires. There is no expensive inspection and toxic treatment programs necessary after the installation of steel poles.


Lead time is short and predictable with steel poles and there are no costly pre-shipment inspections. Allows a faster return on investment as lines can be erected fast and be in service quickly. The speed with which steel poles can be erected also means enormous cost of labor savings.

Contributions by Valmont and Thomas & Betts