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Operator to model electricity grid in 3D

Published: 2 August 2019 - Carly Wills

Advanced 3D digital modelling of the UK's electricity grid will be launched by electricity network operator SP Energy Networks as it plans to introduce Fugro’s virtual technology to reduce the risk of power cuts and prepares for the introduction of the technology across its network in the future.

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 Fugro to map the entire network using virtual world visualisation tools. 

Fugro has been awarded a three-year contract 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 41,000km 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.

Scott Mathieson, network planning and regulation director at SP Energy Networks, says, “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.

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-January 2020+