We are so used to turning on the lights or charging our smartphones at the flick of a switch that it is easy to forget that the production and distribution of energy is the result of a sophisticated and complex process, as is the work required to keep electricity grids functioning properly and safely.
In fact, electricity distribution networks are often located in places that are inaccessible because of the environmental conditions. In our mountains, one common problem in winter is snow on the pylons, which can turn into ice and cause major disruption to the community.
In the spring of 2019, wind and snow caused the overload and breakage of a pylon that supplied power to Rifugio Torino, a mountain refuge that houses a restaurant and about 150 beds at an altitude of 3,375 metres in Punta Helbronner on Mont Blanc, where temperatures can drop as low as -25°C. In addition to those at the refuge, the power failure also affected other crucial utilities, including those of the Italian Civil Defence. The power cut necessitated the prompt intervention of a team from Deval, the CVA Group distribution company.
A joint effort between the Group’s technicians and mountain guides, who provided fixed ropes to secure the route, made it possible to access and fix the problem by traversing the snowy, icy ridge.