October 28th, 2013 | Published in Google Enterprise
Editor's note: Today's guest blogger is Ian McLeod, Chief Executive of Ergon Energy. Tune into our series of webinars about how Google Maps for Business to learn more and see what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.
Queensland is known as Australia’s “sunshine state,” and Ergon Energy is responsible for keeping its power running all day and every day. We distribute electricity to 700,000 people across a vast expanse of 1.7 million square kilometres that reaches 97% of the state’s population. From the dry regions of the west to the tropical reaches of the north, 150,000 kilometres of power lines stretch across almost every part of Queensland, held up by twice as many poles as we have customers.
One of the most common issues we manage is tree vegetation growing close to these power lines, which, left unchecked, causes power outages and safety issues for customers. Managing vegetation to fix and prevent these outages used to cost us $AUD90-100 million each year. With a distribution network this large, we had a good understanding of the condition of our assets, but we could not see the risks to the assets from the surrounding environment or measure the value customers got from our vegetation management plans. With long distances to travel inspecting, cutting and then auditing vegetation, workers often have their hands full.
We decided that there must be a better way, and undertook a project called ‘Remote Observation and Automated Modelling for Economic Simulation’ (ROAMES) to uncover it. ROAMES collects high resolution digital photographs and accurate 3 dimensional LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scanning data to model every wire and power pole across the whole of regional Queensland. We collect this data by flying specialised high-tech aircraft fitted with high-tech gear over the top of these power lines.
To create the ROAMES imagery and integrate it with customer and network reliability information, we turned to the Google Maps for Business and the Google Maps API to incorporate ROAMES’s high resolution 3D imagery with Google Maps and Street View to provide a view of our entire infrastructure. This allows us to identify and predict when trees are growing too close to their power lines and send our field crews out to cut intruding branches. This has significantly reduced the environmental impact of our vegetation management activities and minimised the number of outages for customers.
With Google Maps, we are not only delivering better customer service, but also saving money and handling huge amounts of data. It enables our field workers with a reliable, intuitive tool that helps our bottom line. We expect to save up to $AUD59 million over the next five years using this technology.