New wind farms are generating clean, green electricity in Texas, and at the same time, fueling the need for new electric power infrastructure.

Linemen are constructing thousands of miles of new power lines and interconnecting the infrastructure with the new wind farms. In Quanah, in the western part of Texas, Irby Construction linemen are installing 418 poles on one line and 344 on another line simultaneously. The company is also working with American Electric Power/Electric Transmission Texas to install 400 poles in Wakemy, Texas, and with South Texas Electric Cooperative/City of Garland to install 485 poles in the McCarney, Texas, area. All of the projects are part of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones project.

To set the hundreds of poles, Irby Construction required a machine that could get the job done quickly, safely and efficiently. Because Irby had used a Terex drill to help construct 229 miles of 345-kV line to support the Horse Hollow Gen Tie Wind Farm, the company decided to lease the 800 Auger Drill from Scott Powerline & Utility Equipment.

While drills have been around for a long time, the 800 Auger Drill offers some new advancements in technology, says Jeff Johnson, executive vice president and COO for Scott Powerline & Utility Equipment, an equipment sales rental and service company that caters to contractors, high-line contractors and investor-owned utilities.

“We’ve always had drills of some sort, but the improvements are in the speed and the power of the machine,” he says. “The 800 is quicker to set up and gives operators a more stable work platform.”

Leveraging the Power of the Drill

For the last year, linemen have been using the 800 drill to create holes for the new steel poles. Before using the machine, the worker first sets up a barricade around the location and performs a complete inspection of the equipment. Once the inspection is completed, the worker lifts the boom up over the proposed hole location and proceeds to dig a hole.

The drill has torque levels of up to 75,377 ft-lb and can dig holes as deep as 95 ft. The machine can drill in low-gear range and is said to feature fast cycle times in and out of the hole. For these reasons, Irby Construction opted to use the machine again on the transmission line projects.

The machine offers a significant amount of torque and can deliver a lot of power when the linemen get into hard digging. With this added torque, the linemen can get more dirt and rocks out of the hole at one time and apply more pressure.

In the past, the older machines didn’t have as much power, and it would take longer to dig holes. While they offered similar functionality, operators couldn’t get holes dug as quickly.

Drilling Holes in Solid Rock

The increased power of the 800 drill is particularly useful when it comes to drilling holes in hard rock. When the operators are digging holes in dirt, they can dig a hole 6 ft wide and 25 ft deep in less than 30 minutes. When it comes to rock, however, it can take a couple of hours to a few days just to drill one hole. The time it takes to drill the hole depends on the hardness of the rock as well as the necessary depth of the hole.

The Terex drill, however, is able to handle the rock better than other track machines. In Makema, with the drill operator positioned above the auger, as opposed to the drilling unit being extended out on a boom, he or she can apply more crowd pressure and power through the rock more quickly.

Maintaining the Machine

Operators can work the machine hard when digging in solid rock, and so far, the machine has held up to the wear and tear with no worn out parts. Still, the design of the 800 makes it relatively easy to maintain. Workers can access parts such as fittings and hoses more quickly than in other machines.

When Terex first delivered the machine in 2009, a representative met with crews to review certain features and maintenance requirements. The same employee met with crews again this year to go over the drill’s new advancements.

By using the 800 Auger Drill out in the field, Irby Construction is able to set more poles in less time and support the renewable energy projects throughout the state of Texas. 


Joel Votaw (joel.votaw@irbyconst.com) is a project superintendent for Irby Construction Co., based in Jackson, Mississippi. He is now constructing new transmission lines in Quanah and McCamey, Texas. He has been with the company for 35 years.