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The Rebirth of Tower 473N

Superior Performance

The inhabitants of Putumayo were on the verge of a blackout following a landslide that affected an electric power transmission tower. A GEB team, in the midst of difficult conditions and in record time, build a new tower, the 473N.

  • Citizens with Good Energy
  • Citizens with Good Energy
  • Citizens with Good Energy

At the top of the Campucana district (Putumayo), a downpour released tens of cubic meters of mud and plant material from a mountain, which hit with full force tower 472, a structure that was 34 meters tall and had been operating for 11 years within the Tesalia-Jamondino line (Teja).

Tower 473N rises majestically above the Campucana district in Putumayo. Throughout the works, we never cut the energy service.

Two of the tower’s legs buckled under, but it did not fall and continued to operate. So it did not generate an alert in GEB's monitoring room. If it had fallen, we would not have been able to guarantee the sustainability of the electric energy system in southern Colombia or the interconnection with Ecuador.

But our Maintenance Management employees who were inspecting the line noticed the fact and reported it. The next day, a team set out from Pitalito (Huila) to the site to assess the situation. The journey took three hours by car and four more on foot along a muddy and uneven path to tower 472.

On their return to Mocoa, the team delivered the diagnosis: the tower had two broken legs and was at risk of falling. We could not intervene on the site because a new landslide was imminent, so the recommendation was, to avoid a blackout, to leave the tower alone and implement a temporary variant with the structures of a nearby line, the Mocoa-Jamondino (Moja), out of service since 2017. Then, we suggested disabling the section between towers 470 and 507 of the Teja line to work in the affected area without interrupting electric power transmission.

“We all worked hard to fulfill our promise to GEB and Colombia, meeting the deadline on time and respecting safety and engineering protocols. This is a clear example of our Superior Performance.”

Javier Aponte, GEB Maintenance Management engineer.

“We began engineering tasks to establish how and where they would connect to the time variant. Then, we proceeded with the property, legal and social requirements, and the building of the temporary 1.2 km variant,” explains Javier Aponte, engineer of the GEB's Maintenance Management.

At the same time, we carried out the technical studies and engineering for the final solution on the Teja line and for the controlled dismantling of tower 472. It was to be implemented by March 10, 2019 at the latest. The best option was to remove the 472 from the route and make way for a new 70-meter structure, called the 473N.

By mule and helicopter

To win the battle against time, we used the head of tower 473 and built the rest. In mid-February we disassembled towers 472 and 473. It was a very complex operation because our employees had to be ready at the meeting place in Mocoa at four o'clock in the morning to undertake a four-hour walk to the work site. “We refurbished six kilometers of that difficult trail and used mules and motorcycles with small platforms to transport some materials. The vehicle could only go so far, and from that point on, we had to walk,” Aponte recalls.

Dubán Suárez, line maintenance inspector, remembers that the work hours in those 1,643 meters above sea level was from seven o'clock in the morning to two o'clock in the afternoon because it was raining a lot. “The boys had lunch at heights. Although the climate is hot and humid in the area, up there the rain felt like pins going through the skin,” says Leonardo Galeano, line maintenance inspector.

The 30 tons of tower 473N, which arrived in Mocoa from Bogotá at the end of January, were transferred to the Campucana site in 258 helicopter trips. “It took us 40 days to mounting it. On March 10, 2019, just the day the deadline for the final solution to be implemented was reached, the line was normalized and energized on the section that was out of service,” concludes Aponte with satisfaction.