Home News Aerial imagery helps keep energy supplier in the picture

Aerial imagery helps keep energy supplier in the picture

Being able to plug something in and expecting it to work is a part of our lives we all take for granted, but ensuring that our homes and offices have a reliable supply of electricity actually takes a huge amount of work.

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) is the second largest energy company in the UK, supplying some 3.5 million customers with electricity. Part of their job includes the maintenance of 485,000 kilometres of high voltage power lines – including keeping them safe from overgrown trees and vegetation.

The challenge with dealing with such a large network is knowing where to look, and that is where aerial imagery from Ordnance Survey is playing a big role.

Roger Deacon, Geographic Records Manager at SSE, explains, “Our work is primarily about ‘keeping the lights on, safely’.

“We want to ensure that none of our customers experience an interruption in their service because of trees or vegetation damaging overhead lines. Our yearly target is to make 0.8% of our power lines resilient, which doesn’t sound a great deal but it actually equates to almost 4,000 kilometres every 12 months. It really is a huge task.”

Ordnance Survey’s detailed aerial imagery is helping SSE to identify where best to target their efforts. The location of overhead cables are overlaid on OS MasterMap Imagery Layer – high resolution aerial photography – to highlight where there is a risk of vegetation causing damage.

Roger continues, “We use Ordnance Survey imagery along with our own information on our customers and the location of power lines to decide where to send our engineers. We want to concentrate our efforts on the places that are most at risk and would affect the most people should a failure occur. Once we identify these places, our engineers carry out a survey on the ground and decide which trees need to be cut back.”

In the past SSE was reliant on teams visually inspecting every metre of its network every four years. This new approach means the work can be much more efficient and proactive.

“By using data from Ordnance Survey we know we can rely on it for its accuracy,” Roger concludes.

David Henderson, Ordnance Survey’s Product Manager for Height and Imagery products, says, “Our imagery provides SSE the added visual dimension that is vital to their work. We are delighted that our data is helping SSE to better target their work, improve efficiency and offer an even better service to their customers.”

In addition to utility and local authority customers, OS MasterMap Imagery Layer is relied on by several government departments, including the Forestry Commission, Registers of Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage.

For more information on OS MasterMap Imagery Layer visit https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/imagery