University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Interdisciplinary Professional Programs

Designing Electrical Overhead Distribution Lines See upcoming dates

Course Overview

Learn how to manage risk, legal duties and liabilities involved with the design of electrical overhead distribution lines. You'll better understand electrical and mechanical characteristics, performance, and economic factors to select and apply overhead distribution conductors.

Who Should Attend?

  • Those who work in the areas of design, construction, operation, maintenance 
  • Anyone who utilizes safe work practices involving electrical overhead distribution lines in a utility, institutional, or industrial setting 
  • Engineers, technicians, designers, contractors, consultants, line workers, inspectors, safety personnel, supervisors, and others involved with electrical overhead distribution lines 

Additional Information

This class requires the NESC 2023 code book. 

It can be purchased in print or PDF format at Techstreet: IEEE C2-2023 National Electrical Safety Code

Earn 2.0 CEUs, 20 PDHs with this course.

Course Outline

Introduction to Overhead Distribution Lines

  • Conductors, structures, equipment
  • Voltage, current, and power ratings
  • Electrical loading (normal and contingency)
  • National codes and standards
  • Rights-of-way and joint-use

Introduction to the National Electrical Safety Code® (NESC)

  • NESC purposes, compliance, organization, and content 
  • NESC general requirements for overhead lines


  • Physical and electrical characteristics
  • Transverse, vertical, and tension loads
  • Sag and tension characteristics
  • Sag calculations with the ruling span

 NESC Clearances

  • Between structures 
  • Conductors to ground, other conductors, buildings
  • Climbing and working spaces

Structure Loading

  • Determination of conductor weight span and wind span
  • Forces, moments and loading trees
  • NESC grades of construction
  • Structural loading and strength factors


  • Guying methods and requirements
  • Guy strand types, sizes and selection
  • Anchor types, sizes and selection
  • Pole attachments and insulation

Structure Types and Design

  • Wood, steel, concrete poles 
  • Structures and support arms
  • Selection of structures and structural components

Insulators and Insulation Coordination

  • Lightning characteristics and BIL ratings
  • Electrical, mechanical ratings of insulators
  • Lightning arresters and application


  • Purposes of grounding
  • NESC requirements
  • Grounding standards


"This course has been structured in a perfect manner, addressing every single important topic...very valuable."
—Gayan Herath, Grand River Dam Authority; Tulsa, Oklahoma

"Great instructor with a lot of knowledge. It was a good introduction into what goes into the correct product and material chosen for a project."
—Mark Skull, Menasha Utilities; Menasha, Wisconsin

"Guying calcs and clearance issues are a constant problem I face every day. The problems covered in class regarding these issues will help me make better engineering decisions."
—Brandon Carr, Distribution Engineer, Leidos; Reston, Virginia


R. John Miner

R. John Miner, PE, is president of Collaborative Learning, Inc. of Austin and San Antonio, Texas and has more than 40 years of experience in the electric utility industry. A course instructor for the University of Wisconsin for more than 20 years, Miner has conducted educational programs throughout the country and at several overseas locations. He earned a BS degree in electrical engineering with honors and an MS degree in engineering science from the University of Toledo.

M. Thomas Black

Tom is an independent consultant and course instructor in the electric and gas utility industry.  His experience includes both municipal (Colorado Springs and City of Fountain, CO) and Investor owned (Progress Energy) utilities across multiple jurisdictions in Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.  His range of experience in the utility industry covers 36 years and includes planning and engineering, standards, Construction and Maintenance Manager, Energy Delivery General Manager and Chief Energy Officer responsible for all aspects of energy acquisition including renewables, peaking and base load supply, electric transmission and distribution and gas distribution. Tom has served on the boards of RMEL and the Colorado Association of Municipal Utilities CAMU and is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He received his bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis with honors and is a registered professional engineer in Colorado and Arizona.

Erich Schoennagel

Erich prepares educational materials and teaches a variety of programs including overhead and underground electrical transmission and distribution, NESC compliance, safety, and system performance and improvement. With CenterPoint Energy, he managed the Transmission Project Engineering group, which served the company’s needs for transmission system design, substation and telecom site improvement, and civil engineering for transmission, substation, distribution, and telecom structures. Beginning his utility career as a co-op student with Houston Lighting & Power, he gained exposure to power generation, fuel procurement, and civil engineering support. Upon graduation from Texas A&M University, he joined Houston Lighting & Power in the Civil Engineering group, where he designed structures and foundations for transmission, substation, distribution, and telecom projects. Erich then joined the Fossil Plant Engineering group where he designed civil engineering projects for the generation assets of the company, while continuing to support the projects of the power delivery system. Later he designed upgrades and new lines for the overhead and underground transmission system. Erich served for 15 years as a member advisor and later, chairman of the Underground Transmission Task Force for the Electric Power Research Institute until his retirement from CenterPoint Energy. There he directed research related to underground transmission and superconductivity. He was a board member of the annual TSDOS symposium, and a member of the American Concrete Institute 336 committee related to foundation design and construction. Erich received his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University. He is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Texas.

Upcoming dates