Australia: Ergon Energy is about to roll out a spatial data collection project that will capture light detection and ranging (LiDAR) and photographic reference images of the whole network in Australia every year. The annual snapshots will inform network maintenance planning and provide a platform to develop predictive models.
The budget of the project is USD 4 million a year, which Bangay, General Manager of Ergon’s Remote Observation Automated Modelling Economic Simulation (ROAMES) Group, says will be recouped directly in savings as the imagery enables Ergon to optimise the timing and location of work to control vegetation encroaching on its lines.
Ergon distributes electricity across 1.7 million square kilometres — covering 97 per cent of Queensland and several Torres Strait islands — via its prime asset and major management challenge: 150,000 kilometres of transmission lines held up by about a million poles. It has about 1.5 poles per customer and covers more area per customer than any other power utility in the world.
“The biggest challenge is interpreting the volume of data we receive to identify where we have potential issues with vegetation,” Bangay added.
Two purpose-designed planes are expected to gain certification from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority by early November. Before the end of the year they will begin capturing data over 400 metre-wide strips in the remote outreaches of Ergon’s network where ‘single wire earth return lines’ serve isolated homesteads, pump stations, and other facilities. Before the end of 2012 they will have traversed almost 20,000 kilometres per month to cover the whole network, and be set to go around again.