Maintenance dollars that don’t stretch as far as they once did.
How can you manage your utility’s rights-of-way with these limitations, under today’s regulations?
Satellite Superheroes podcast checked in with AiDash’s Senior Manager of Customer Success, Jordan Jozak for some answers.
Jozak, who has worked as ISA (International Society of Arborists) certified arborist, utility specialist, and certified tree care safety professional, now helps electric utilities develop data-driven vegetation management solutions.
His view is that satellite technology mixed with artificial intelligence (AI) can help.
Read on to consider the top three takeaways from the podcast hosted by Scott MacKenzie. Or listen now.
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Top three takeaways
Takeaway 1: Outdated cycle programs and climate conditions hamper vegetation management.
Some areas in the U.S. can attribute up to 80% of outages to vegetation.
The time-consuming and labor-intensive process of managing vegetation is held back by technologies and outdated practices. Plus, the numbers of billion-dollar disasters are increasing — either driven by storms or wildfires and linked back to climate change.
In typical cycle programs, an area may be trimmed every five years. But with increased costs and stagnant budgets, it may be difficult to fund this cycle. “We have a need to do more,” says Jozak, “[especially] because of the storm resiliency initiatives that are going on, so how can we accomplish that?”
Takeaway 2: “Never again” regulations mandate inspections.
Regulators, responding to current events and conditions, also add challenges to vegetation management.
A pivotal moment for utilities North America was the Northeast and Midwest blackout in 2003. The event shut off power to millions of customers.
The cause was unmaintained transmission line rights-of-way.
After the event, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a regulator for all North American utilities, mandated that utilities inspect their lines.
But again, with today’s budget restrictions — operating via rates set with regulators — it’s difficult to fully fund staff and technologies to inspect lines, monitor vegetation, and support cycle programs, while preparing for or providing disaster management.
Takeaway 3: Satellites and AI offer a cost-effective, data-driven approach. No guesswork needed.
When and where to trim? Cycle trims don’t always catch problematic growth.
Satellites and artificial intelligence provide not only a current look at vegetation for inspection and trim needs, but also a historical view. The wealth of historical data a satellite gathers can be used to extrapolate prior growth rates and forecast the future.
Jozak does not disparage other technologies that utilities may have in place. He notes that using LiDAR via helicopter or fixed wing aircraft can complement what a satellite provides. However, these technologies may have an eight month wait for results, while satellites can get utilities up to speed within eight weeks.
Joining the data from satellites and other technologies supports effective data-driven decisions. Considering not just current, but also historical natural growth patterns can lead to efficient, precision vegetation control.
“You can’t fight nature,” says Jozak. “If you cater your program more around natural growth rates, the way that biodiversity and vegetation are currently acting, you can get a lot more done.”
He adds, “I’m here with AI Dash because … I wanted to work with a company that was really building an innovative solution.”
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