It follows an extensive trial by SP Energy Networks since 2014, which led to all UK network operators adopting its current system. The major upgrade will use innovative technology developed by world leading Geo-data specialist Fugro to map the entire network using virtual world visualisation tools.
Fugro has been awarded a three-year contract, beginning in July, to develop a precise model of SP Energy Networks' complete overhead line network using 3D models and advanced analytics. They will record the network using aerial survey data, which will ultimately be used to identify where vegetation and other external factors may disrupt the network.
Under the new contract, Fugro will capture lidar data and aerial imagery to create an accurate 3D representation of the distribution network, down to the centimetre. The model, which will cover over 41 000 km of SP Energy Networks’ areas, will provide a digital foundation for asset inspections that will reduce the number of on-site surveys and audits and increase efficiency in vegetation and ground clearance management.
Previously, SP Energy Networks carried out all vegetation management surveys by eye and a handheld measuring device, so Fugro’s new technology will increase efficiency in the business and allow SP Energy Networks to use cutting-edge artificial intelligence algorithms to improve customer safety and reduce the chances of unexpected power failure in the future.
Scott Mathieson, Network Planning and Regulation Director at SP Energy Networks, said, “With the ever-increasing electricity demand in the UK, and the security and stability of our infrastructure that that requires, it’s never been more important to be as agile and proactive as possible with our asset management.
"Our landscapes are constantly changing and this can often impact on our infrastructure and therefore our customers if we can’t identify potential hazards or issues in good time. Fugro’s solution will not only allow us to shift parts of our asset inspection to become desk-based, but it will also reduce any health and safety risks by ensuring vegetation and structures in close proximity to our overhead lines are identified as an obstruction as soon as possible and before customers are impacted.”
Fugro’s Roames’ asset-matching capability is crucial to this project. A precise 3D model of the network will allow SP Energy Networks to update its geographical information system (GIS) with real-world data, creating an accurate digital ‘twin’ to virtually model and explore their overhead network.
Robert Hoddenbach, Fugro’s Global Business Line Director for Land Asset Integrity, said: “Fugro has developed a unique understanding of SP Energy Networks’ requirements from working together on the network innovation trial, so we are delighted to have been awarded this framework. There is much excitement around virtual world technology for asset management and our Roames service provides a truly innovative, immersive solution that will give SP Energy Networks a deep understanding of their network and assets, resulting in key improvements in cost, performance and risk reduction.”
In addition to more efficient asset management and maintenance for electricity network operators, Roames delivers benefits to others beyond the utilities industry. For example, government environmental departments will be able to utilise the data to provide better insights for ecology studies, vegetation management, and national and local flood-modelling programmes.
Back in 2014, SP Energy Networks became the first district network operator to move to digital modelling, leading a trial using lidar data to realise the business benefits of safety improvements through the production of a network model. Since then, they’ve significantly enhanced their asset management processes to reduce costs and improve safety across their network. The business has been able to share the learnings across the wider industry, with other network operators now using the same technology.
SP Energy Networks owns and manages overhead and underground powerlines in Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales, North Shropshire and Central and Southern Scotland. For more information about SP Energy Networks and its services, visit: spenergynetworks.co.uk