Solving an RFI Problem at Strawberry Hill

The story starts on Field Day, two years ago, the last Field Day that was held on the Island.

We set up at Strawberry Hill Park. That’s in a semi-rural location, and I had gone on “DXpeditions” there to successfully escape the high levels of RF noise at my Winslow home QTH a number of times before, and had mentioned this to others when the Club was floating ideas for a Field Day location.

Imagine our surprise and disappointment when the noise floor turned out to be S-7 or worse on all bands. Despite that handicap, we did still operate there; doubtless we missed many dozens of stations calling W7NPC just because we couldn’t hear them.

After Field Day passed, I thought about the noise issue multiple times, but they were just fleeting thoughts. I never did any followup investigating as to what the culprit might be.

Then one day I was out riding my bike for exercise, as I try to do several times per week. Just south of the intersection of Fletcher Bay Road and High School Road, I thought I heard a faint noise coming from a power pole. I stopped. It wasn’t my imagination: I did hear a faint noise. It sounded like something arcing.

A few days later, I returned to that spot after dark with some binoculars to confirm my suspicion. Sure enough, a faint bluish spark was visible coming from one of the high-voltage wires leading to the pole pig transformer.

I jotted down the details of the pole (the numbers on it, plus its relation to the nearest interesction) and reported it to Puget Sound Energy. And, until recently, forgot about the incident.

Prompted by a fellow club member, I decided to write down my experiences, and that meant also researching what came of my report. Well, there’s no more arcing happening at that power pole, so apparently the issue has been corrected.

That’s not a surprise. First, it was an FCC regulations violation. Second, arcing equipment is equipment ready to fail, and any competently-run utility would rather replace failing equipment before it fails, during regular working hours, than have to dispatch an emergency repair crew being paid overtime wages after it fails. Third, equipment failures in the electric grid sometimes start wilfdfires and/or kill people, and the utilities would rather that (and the associated lawsuits and reputation damage) not happen.

I have since visited Strawberry Hill park and can verify that the noise floor there is now much lower. The moral of the story is that it doesn’t always take fancy equipment, or even any equipment, to find the source of HF interference. Sometimes the only thing it takes is your own eyes and ears.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.