Blast from the Past: Innovation for Safety—1916 vs. 2018

This article is part of an ongoing series looking at how SDG&E has grown with the San Diego region over the past 130+ years and how we’ve made advances to better serve our communities.

As San Diego started to make a name for itself in the early 20th century with events like the Panama-California Exposition and the opening of the Naval Air Station on Coronado, our crews were busy installing power poles and lines to build the electric grid that would power our growing community.

As we’ve adopted new technologies to improve safety and reliability over the past century, the way we do work like installing power poles has dramatically improved—and when we look back at photos from the early days of SDG&E, the differences are striking.

Back in the Day

In the days before pickup trucks or machinery like hydraulic cranes were commonplace in construction, raising electric transmission poles was a job completed with pure muscle power.

Working together, crews of men—like those shown in the 1916 photo below—carefully hoisted 50-foot spiked power poles from the ground. As a spotter secured the pole, the rest of the crew diligently worked from the top of the pole to the bottom, until the newly standing pole was secured in the ground.

Changing with the Times

While manpower was the best method in 1916 to get the job done, in 2018, we look to innovative technologies and tools to help increase safety and efficiency. Today, cranes and helicopters are used to install transmission poles and towers, completing the work with reduced risk and in less time, limiting impacts to customers and making work safer for our crews.

The Only Constant is Change

At SDG&E, we embrace innovative thinking and new technologies to constantly improve. Learn more about how we are working to deliver cleaner, safer and more reliable energy to our customers with projects like the Cleveland National Forest Power Line Replacement at