March 14, 2017
By Mike Gundling
While utility vegetation management programs and environmental interests often appear at cross purposes, advancing data collection capability is spanning the gap between the two.
Utilities frequently are reminded of potential for power disruption when a transmission line touches a tree. High on that list of reminders is the Northeast Blackout of 2003, when three line-tree incidents fed a cascading outage that thrust 55 million customers into darkness. But those same utilities also are reminded of their responsibility to the planet by advocates who see lines threaten wetlands and areas with endangered species, as well as parks and other valuable and fragile habitat.
In the March issue of Utility Products magazine, Dave Gura, TerraGo Commercial Account Manager, writes of reports that serve both interests by including remote data collected more easily and quickly with the help of TerraGo Edge and TerraGo Magic.
The Northeast Blackout of 2003 prompted the need for vegetation management regulation and reporting on both federal and state levels, and those reports have become more detailed as the ability to gather information has improved technologically.
In the Utility Products article, Don Strebel, Senior Environmental Scientist at Versar Inc., offers an example: “When you’re documenting an incident in which a tree has fallen and affected the line, you must determine what kind of tree it was. Where was that tree, and what was the mode of (power failure)? Was the tree within the right of way? Was the tree already rotten?”
Versar uses TerraGo Edge in its field data collection work, largely for environmentally focused clients.
At the same time reports to aid in utility companies’ vegetation management programs proliferate, a growing customer base is generating a need for more power plants and more lines to transmit greater energy. That expansion threatens an already threatened environment.
Technology companies are developing tools to help determine proposed line routes and help plan and implement utility vegetation management (UVM) programs. Dave’s Utility Products article discusses some of that evolving technology – including such futuristic data generators as remote sensors and different sorts of imagery.
In the end, he reminds that work still depends on boots-on-the-ground foresters, armed with smartphones and/or tablet computers, collecting data and getting real-time feedback from decision-makers through TerraGo Edge and Magic capabilities.
“Our studies indicate that TerraGo Edge allows us to integrate everything into one,” says Ginny Rogers, an Environmental Scientist at Versar. “We’re using it to convert more and more data directly into electronic formats, rather than recording it on paper sheets, which eliminates the data-entry step. Any data associated with a certain place in the field is all integrated into one place on our server.”