To those outside the electric power industry, live electrical wires are often viewed with a sense of fear and awe. Even inside the industry, working on or near live wires that carry hundreds or thousands of volts of electricity seems challenging, if not downright dangerous and foolhardy.
Not to Alan Holloman, though. Holloman, a transmission team leader (transmission maintenance and support) for Georgia Power, started working energized lines in his late teens, fell in love with it and has never looked back.
“At 18, I was offered a four-year scholarship to the University of Georgia, but I decided I wanted to go out and work for a while first,” Holloman recalls. “So I got a job on a Georgia Power crew, started seeing what the linemen did and knew it was for me. I never did go to college, just got caught up in being a barehand lineman, eventually barehand foreman, transmission supervisor and then in the corporate office as a transmission team leader. It has been a great career.”
Great, Holloman adds, not only for the variety and challenge of the work, but because of the very nature of bare-hand line work. “Once you get a chance to do this, it kind of fires you up,” he says. “There is a special technique and it takes a very good skill set. It takes years of work to get to a point where you are competent in performing all processes of line work.”
One of those processes, replacing structure components energized, even led Holloman to design and patent a new product called the Hot Line Base Plate (HLBP), which he has developed with Georgia Power Company Everyday Solutions. The HLBP accelerates the replacement process while increasing worker safety. The HLBP is attached to the pole with two ratchet straps that do not require the use of banding or the drilling of wood poles, which saves both time and money.
“You used to have to bore holes in the wood, which takes time and can lead to decay if the holes are left untreated,” Holloman explains. “On steel and concrete poles, non-ceramic conductors must be banded, which also takes time, and the banding has to be discarded after a single use.”
Using an HLBP, Holloman claims, saves both time and money in the field. “We used to change maybe one H-frame arm per day, but in the past six months, we did one in less than four hours,” he notes.
Holloman's work and experience also has landed him on several Southern Company committees as well as industry committees, including EPRI Live-Line Working; EPRI Inspection, Assessment and Management; and IEEE ESMOL. The transmission committees study future transmission line planning and design but also look at directions in transmission live-line technologies and workforce developments. Holloman has seen an increased interest and involvement in the industry committees. “We used to have these meetings where maybe six or seven utilities were in attendance,” Holloman observes. “At the last meeting I attended, we had at least 35 to 40 people present.”
Live-line work allows maintenance to be performed without taking lines out of service while increasing system reliability. The safe work processes are good for the customers and the line system. Live-line working practices will continue to be an important part of the maintenance practices in the future.
Holloman does have a life outside the live wires. He and his wife have five children and six grandchildren, all of whom still live very close to home.
“Seems like all the kids decided to have grandkids at the same time,” Holloman comments. “My wife has Christmas stockings on our mantle, and it can't hold many more stockings. The other day I said I hope they will slow down for a while,” he quips, before adding, “we really enjoy our children and grandchildren, and are very involved in the local church.”
“I also really enjoy working my bird dogs,” Holloman continues. “I got involved in bird hunting at an early age, and my father and I try to go bird hunting at least one or two times per month. I got involved with competition bird hunting, which is not as much about bird hunting but more about training dogs. Training is training: develop a good plan and process, take the time needed and communicate clearly.”
When bird season is over, Holloman enjoys family time at a local lake and at home with his extended family — all of whom are very nearby indeed.
“We all live within five minutes of each other and about 45 minutes west of Atlanta, except the youngest son, who is at Wake Forest completing his law degree,” Holloman offers. “The family always knows when their mother is cooking on Sunday, and we have a great time together. It is a great life. We are truly blessed.”