USGIF GotGeoint Blog USGIF promotes geospatial intelligence tradecraft and a stronger community of interest between government, industry, academia, professional organizations and individuals focused on the development and application of geospatial intelligence to address national security objectives.
At DistribuTECH Nancy Bui-Thompson, President of Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD), gave an insightful presentation about her utility from the perspective of an elected official. I think that Nancy is one of the first examples of an elected official presenting at DistribuTECH. SMUD is and has been for some time one of the most forward-looking utilities in North America. It was the first California utility to reach 20% renewable power and the first to commit to 33% renewables. It is also one of the most energy efficient utiltiies in California.
It is governed by an elected board of directors, who are responsible for policy and strategy, and perhaps this is the reason it is very customer focussed and has consistently maintained high customer satisfaction ratings. For example during the rollout of the smart meter program it maintained an impressive 95% customer satisfaction rating. The major customer drivers are green, renewable and reliable, and the need for choice. Nancy emphasized that SMUDs unique governance model reserving policy for the board of directors allows SMUDs management and employees freedom to implement without interference.
SMUD is moving from a centralized utility with a business model based on selling electricity to a distributed utility providing localized grid services. This means SMUD is getting out of the business of selling electricity, and into the business of selling grid services.
At the policy level the focus areas are customer analytics, changing the rate structure and grid analytics.
Customer analytics includes collecting operational data on customer behaviour to help identify and provide new services. For example, these statistics helps identify early adopters, customers who are interested in renewable energy or energy efficiency in the home and who help drive programs focussed on theses areas. Customer data and analytics also helps with segmentation, defining the different market segments that require different types and levels of grid services.
Grid analytics is helping SMUD better manage outages. Collecing operational data and analyzing it to be able to predict outages has reduced the number of outages by 20% and the average durating of outages by 28%.
One of the most interesting innovations at SMUD is in the area of rate structure. SMUD and other utilities are in the interesting position for a retailer of trying to sell less of its product, in this case electricity. People are using less electricity as a result of personal interest as well as SMUD's own energy efficiency programs. But the money has to come from somewhere. SMUD has introduced a flat infrastructure fee. Currently every customer pays $18/month for the grid, independent from how much power they consume. SMUD has determined that $28 is the breakeven point, where the cost of maintaining the grid would be covered by infrastructure fees, and is moving towards that monthly change.
Another interesting innovation at SMUD (which I have seen elsewhere) is their solar power program. Customers can buy into solar power without the bother of having to install solar panels on their roofs. The first solar program was a 1 MW solar PV program designed for residential customers. The next will be a an 11 MW program for commercial customers.
I am at DistribuTECH this week in Orlando. This is North America's largest electric power utility event. I don't know the number of attendees this year, but last year it was close to 10,000.
The first talk I heard was a riveting talk that hit on a key theme of this year's conference, big data and analytics. The talk was given by Lee Krevat of Sempra US Gas and Power and Tim Fairchild of SAS and was entitled "What can a regulated electric utility learn from Moneyball ?" Moneyball is a book by Michael Lewis about baseball and how the Oakland A's applied big data and analytics to become one of the top teams but without having the deep pockets of the richest teams.
Moneyball for transformers
As an example of the relevance of Moneyball is a utility that took every bit of data that could potentially be relevant to the lifecycle of a transformer, some 80 variables in all, and ran correlations with transformer failure data - for 1500 transformers. They found that just 10 of the variables predicted 91% of transformer failures. This compares with the utility's traditional way of forecasting failure which only predicted 15% of the failures. If you ask an experienced power engineer what the most important factor in determining the lifetime of a transformer, the historical load, and especially the overload, on the transformer would be at the top of the list. What the utility actually found was that the correlation analysis showed that load was only the eighth most important factor. The analysis showed that the most important factor was the number of meters attached to the transformer - which probably wouldn't have been on anyone's list.
Lee and Tim presented other analogies where analytics play a key role in both baseball and electric power.
The good face
Baseball scouts often profile players by the look of their face, body, and a "baseball look", not always on their actual statistics. Similarly utilities often profile circuits to prioritize capacity investment decisions, often based on "gut" feeling. Now they are able to leverage data to make better investments.
Age before beauty
Scouts show a preference for younger players even though baseball players with better statistics, but who are older, are also often available without long term contracts and at a significantly lower salary. By analogy large utility transformers have traditionally been replaced based on age. But now statistics on many transformers are being monitored and the transformers only replaced if their statistics are in decline and predict failure.
Lee and Tim suggested other practical applications of this approach which include using machine learning to predict failures of wind turbines and to determine why solar farms often generate less electricity than expected.
At the last GoGeomatics Social in Ottawa Jonathan Murphy gave an insightful presentation on Geospatial Tech in use for Oil & Gas production in Alberta. Jonathan related his experiences in Northern Alberta preparing terrain for seismic surveys. The is almost entirely muskeg and surveying is only feasible in winter when temporary frozen roads are used to move and setup survey equipment. The seismic survey preparation process in this terrain involves several steps (and some new vocabulary); tramping, mulching, slashing, hand cutting, surveying, laying out, and picking up.
Geospatial technology is used in all aspects of field operations. Everyone carries a Garmin GPS in their coat. Equipment are equipped with mobile phones which also can report geolocation. Geospatial is used to track the location of field personnel and heavy equipment. The surveyors use their own highly accurate survey equipment to survey the location of all bore holes for both source (explosives) and receiver grid (seismic recorders). Mapping is highly dynamic with new ice roads and new source and receiver bore holes being created every day. Tools such as OziExplorer, ArcGIS 10.1, and Microsoft SQL Server are used for elementary mapping applications. Jonathan reported that the applications hardly scratched the surface of geospatial technology. For example, a lot of manual work in updating and maintaining the maps could be eliminated by using basic GIS technology such as buffers.
One of the challenges that Jonathan identified is that the geospatial applications are used by skilled staff who are experienced in seismic surveying, winter drilling programs, wildfire management, and road and facility construction, but have minimal education in geospatial technology. Basically the staff have learned enough GIS "on the fly" to do their jobs. But from Jonathan's talk it was readily apparent that GIS could be leveraged to do much more.
This is a global problem. Engineers and skilled workers in many sectors have received minimal or no education or training in geospatial technology. I remember a India Geospatial Forum in Hyderabad in 2014, where I moderated a session on electric power. It turned out to be an absolutely fascinating conversation with a wide range of speakers representing different aspects of the Indian power industry. One of them was Arup Ghosh, Chief Technology Officer at Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd (TPDDL) who presented an insightful view into implementing GIS from the perspective of a private utility. (Only 5% of India's power industry is private, but the private sector seems to be leading a transformation of the Indian power industry in a number of areas.) One of the major implementation challenges that TPDDL experienced was finding and recruiting skilled GIS professionals. The GIS group at TPDDL has about 60 field personnel and 18 analysts and support staff. None of these has an educational background in GIS. Twelve are electrical engineers and the rest are people with electric power experience. All have learned GIS "on the fly". According to Mr Ghosh the major problem is that Indian engineering facilities do not include GIS in their curriculum. I don't think this problem is restricted to Indian engineering and technical schools.
In the U.S. in response to the demand for computer savvy technicians, a growing number of higher education institutions, especially community colleges are customizing programs to train electrical power workers to handle both conventional electric power and renewable and smart grid networks. For example, Richmond Community College (RCC) in Hamlet, N.C. is teaming up with area utilities to develop a two-year associate's degree in utility substation and relay technology. The college plans to provide training for students in operating and maintaining the current and next generation fleet of substations. Apparently the idea for the education initiative began when Progress Energy approached the school with concerns that in the normal process new inexperienced hires required up to five years of training to become relay technicians, which Progess Energy saw as too protracted a process to keep up with the rate at which experienced workers are retiring.
As another example, York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina has partnered with Duke Energy and other area power companies to develop a nine-week certificate program for specialized electrical line workers.
Urbanization is a worldwide phenomenon. According to the World Bank, 54 percent of the world's population lives in urban areas today. By 2045, the number of people living in cities will increase by 1.5 times to 6 billion, adding 2 billion more urban residents. With more than 80 percent of global GDP generated in cities, urbanization can accelerate economic development, but it has to be managed in a way that decreases energy intensity (energy per unit of GDP).
Smart city technology is becoming an essential element in the development of the world's megacities. For example, the new Indian government's budget includes an allocation for initiating the development of 100 smart cities. Songdo IDB in Korea and Fujisawa in Japan are two smart cities already under development. China has 36 smart cities in development and a low carbon model city in Tianjin. Singapore plans to become a smart nation by 2015. Iskandar is Malaysia's first smart city. The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) incorporates smart city concepts.
According to a recent report, the global smart cities market is forecasted to grow from $410 billion in 2014 to $1.1 trillion by 2019 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.5%. This includes smart homes, intelligent building automation, energy management, smart health, smart education, smart water, smart transportation, smart security, and related services. Most of this activity is expected to occur in Asia and the Middle East.
Technologies and trends such as smart cities, smart grids, sensor webs, the Internet of Things (IoT), facilities and asset management, indoor and outdoor navigation, energy performance modeling and real-time, “big data” analytics are important for urban planners. In these technology domains, open standards encourage the sharing of information. The OGC Urban Planning Domain Working Group intends to discover requirements for open spatial standards in information systems involved in the planning, design, use, maintenance and governance of publicly accessible spaces.
According to the IPCC urban areas accounted for 67 – 76 % of energy use and 71 – 76 % of energy-related CO2 emissions in 2006. Cities are going to have to adopt a leading role in transforming to efficient, non-carbon energy, if we are going to be able to achieve a sustainable level of economic development.
In preparation for COP21 in Paris, all of the major developing nations have committed to decreases their energy intensity. For example, India has just released its commitments (INDC) to reducing emissions prior to the Paris COP meeting. The challenge for India is tackling climate change while at the same time improving the standard of living of its third of a billion poor.
According to Navigant worldwide 96 cities that have committed to becoming 100% renewable. These include Vancouver, Canada and San Francisco, California. According to the annual ranking by the Global Green Economy Index (GGEI) Vancouver is the world's fourth greenest city. According to the GGEI the top three greenest cities are Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Stockholm. The countries corresponding to these cities (Denmark, Netherlands, and Sweden) also rank high, in the top 5 country rankings. Canada is 12th. The Nordic cities have achieved their high standing with the help of their respective national governments, whereas Vancouver has achieved its high green ranking on its own with little help from the federal government. Two years ago the Dutch Ministry of the Interior initiated a joint project with the Municipal government of The Hague (Den Haag) to reduce and stabilize energy usage and costs in downtown Den Haag. The study area is roughly about a square kilometer where the buildings are large and owned for the most part by the National and Municipal governments.
Most of the world's electric power utilities have adopted a smart grid strategy at some level. This can involve distributed renewable energy (DER), reduced emissions from existing fossil fuel generation and various energy efficiency programs. Navigant Research has just released a report that investigates the fundamental shift in the way cities manage energy and their relationship with electric power utilities. It focusses on DER, demand management, EV vehicles and charging infrastructure and energy efficiency. The major technology suppliers according to Navigant are ABB, Accenture, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Hitachi, Huawei, Itron, Oracle, S&C Electric Company, SAP, Schneider Electric, Siemens, SSN, and Toshiba.
Navigant Research projects that the global smart energy for smart cities technology market will grow from $7.3 billion in annual revenue in 2015 to $20.9 billion by 2024. That represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.4%.
It should be noted that this analysis does not include energy efficient buildings the market for which Navigant has estimated in a separate study to be $307.3 billion in 2014 growing to $623.0 billion in 2023.
Worldwide there is increasing demand from building and infrastructure owners for service provision throughout the entire life cycle of a building or infrastructure. This represents a distinct break with the design/build tradition which has dominated construction for years. At the Year in Infrastructure conference in London, a dominant theme was the growing recognition of the importance of full lifecycle management of infrastructure. I found it symptomatic of the direction of the construction industry that fully one third of the 54 finalists for the annual Be Inspired Awards involved mapping, rehabbing, retrofitting, replacing and managing existing infrastructure. This is my classification of these Be Inspired finalists;
Patrick MacLeamy, Chairman of buildingSMART and CEO of HOK, has been pushing a very simple message about the U.S. construction industry for years. Buildings are too expensive, are too inefficient to operate and maintain, and don't last long. As a result the U.S. construction industry is falling behind the Nordic countries, the U.K. and Singapore. His solution is a full life cycle approach to construction. Information has to be shared between owners, designers, contractors, operations and facilities management over the entire life cycle of the building or infrastructure.
Over 50% of the cost of maintaining a building is operations and maintenance which is comprised of administration, maintenance and repairs, and restoration projects. In several countries BIM has become essential for design and construction. But many including the UK government believe that the full value of BIM can only be found during the operational life of the building where the majority of the life cycle costs occur. The UK government has said that "the 20% saving refers to CapEx cost savings however we know that the largest prize for BIM lies in the operational stages of the project life-cycle".
Road and highway infrastructure
Highway construction is being transformed, due in part to the arrival of autonomous vehicles. I've blogged about the startling (at least to traditional construction contractors) vision of the future of highway construction of the Chief of Surveys at the Oregon Department of Transportation (DoT) which targets the full lifecycle of highway assets from planning through design and construction and operation and maintainenance. Some large construction projects are already being designed, built and operated and maintained with a full lifecycle perspective.
Industry surveys report that up to 80 percent of a utility's resources and budget can be spent on operating and maintaining existing utility infrastructure. Surveys also show that aging utility infrastructure is a top priority for most utilities.
Be Inspired Awards: Mapping, Monitoring, Rehabbing, and Replacing Infrastructure
One of the projects focused specifically on full lifecycle data management for highway construction. The project, which was submitted by the Roads Directorate, Denmark, is for the $ 580 million 39-kilometer Herning – Holstebro highway which includes eight interchanges, four railway crossings, and five bridges. The important achievement of the project was to create a digital workflow with meaningful requirements for sharing data among disciplines and across the entire project lifecycle. The project was a finalist for the year's Be Inspired Award for Innovation in Roads.
Seven of the finalists' submissions involved renovation, rehabbing, and retrofit. An outstanding example of a rehab project is the Bond Street to Baker Street Tunnel Remediation Project. This is a London Underground project in the UK. It involved the replacement of the existing elastoplastic concrete lining of a 215-meter tunnel segment on the Jubilee Line with a spheroidal graphite iron lining - all while the line was running at full capacity. This achievement won this year's Be Inspired Award for Innovation in Rail and Transit at the Year in Infrastructure 2015 conference.
Two of the finalists' projects involved replacement. An example of a replacement project was the Decommissioning and Replacement of Del Rio Bridge on US 20 this was carried out by Harper-Leavitt Engineering for the Idaho Transportation Department with minimum disruption to traffic.
Five of the finalists submitted projects that involved monitoring and extracting more value from existing transportation and utility infrastructure including rail, electric substations, electric and water and waste water distribution networks.
An example is a project submitted by SA Water which won the Be InspiredInnovation in Asset Performance Management Award. The project involved integrating a hydraulic model and an operational analytics tool with network sensors to help them optimize their network. These tools enable them to optimize chlorine dosing for different water sources (runoff, desalinization, rivers), minimize electric power costs, and improve water quality by mapping water age across their entire network. SA Water have not only been able to reduce their power bill by A$3 million, but also have cut their network operating costs by nearly a A$ million. It has also resulted in improved water quality. More fundamentally it has given them much greater insight into sources of revenue and the costs of various aspects of operating a water network.
Four of the finalist projects involved mapping and historic site protection. An example is a gas main project submitted by Utility Mapping Services Inc. This project involved creating a 3D map of underground utilities along a stretch of highway with complex utility infrastructure woven through dense commercial and residential areas with limited right-of-way and heavy traffic congestion. Most critically from a safety perspective, there were no utility strikes on the project. As a result the 3D model is credited with reducing construction time from 10 to 7 weeks. Most importantly from a budget perspective, there were no change orders and the total cost of the project came in at 10-15% less than estimated in the absence of a 3D model.
Another example is a project submitted by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). Singapore intends to be the world's first "smart nation". Part of this initiative involves developing a virtual Singapore that is intended to be the source of authoritative information about Singapore for use by government agencies. The project involves capturing large amounts of data using multiple rapid mapping technologies including oblique imagery, airborne laser scanning, mobile laser scanning, and terrestrial scanning. The data has been compiled into 3D city model in a single database repository which includes geometry, topology, semantics and appearance. The database relies on CityGML, a standard managed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), for the database schema and for data exchange. The total volume of data is more than 50 terabytes. The database is open and accessible to all government agencies. The most challenging part of the project has been the development of business processes and technologies for ensuring the data remains current. At the the Year in Infrastructure conference in London the SLA the won the annual Be Inspired AwardforInnovation in Government.
Smart substations are an essential component of the next generation of the electric power grid. But for many utilities they have become a severe bottleneck because of limited substation design resources. Enabling external contractors to participate efficiently in substation design is becoming an important strategy for alleviating this problem. After a year in which Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) had failed to complete 60% of its substation design projects, PG&E embarked on an innovative project to enable external contractors to participate efficiently in the substation design process. This achievement won this year's Be Inspired Award for Innovation in Utilities at the Year in Infrastructure 2015 conference in London.
PG&Es Substation Engineering Services had deployed a new substation design system that integrated electric and physical design to approximately 80 internal design employees. The new system halved the average time required per drawing from 24 to 12 hours. This resulted in efficiency gains of about $ 5 million in savings per year on contracted projects.
But PG&E found that it still had a substation design backlog. PG&E's strategy for accelerating substation design relied on the expanded use of external contractors to augment its stretched internal resources. However, as its use of external contractors grew, PG&E found that efficiency decreased because the overhead associated with external resources was very high compared to internal resources. PG&E's solution was to develop a distributed engineering design system that allowed engineers anywhere in the world to collaborate efficiently on substation design. PG&E’s distributed substation design environment reduced the average time required per drawing for external contractors by a third, making external contractors nearly as efficient as internal designers. Altogether the distributed engineering design system saved $7.3 million in costs annually. Also since less travel was required, a side effect of the project was a reduced carbon footprint.
Over the past couple of years I have followed the regulation of the commercial use of UAVs in the U.S. In the back of my mind, I have always thought that the application where there would be a tremendous cost benefit from UAVs is monitoring transmission lines for vegetation management. Recently a utility in Southern California has begun flying UAVs to test the concept.
In February of this year the FAA proposed to amend its regulations to adopt rules for the commercial operation of UAVs in the National Airspace System (NAS). The FAA has suggested some types of operations the proposed new rules would allow. These include "power-line/pipeline inspection in hilly or mountainous terrain."
The FAA's proposed rule would limit commercial UAV flights to daylight-only, visual-line-of-sight (VLOS) operations. The unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with unaided vision. The UAV is not permitted to operate over any people not directly involved in its operation. Its maximum airspeed must be100 mph or less (87 knots). It cannot fly higher than 500 feet above ground level or above 18,000 feet of altitude. Minimum weather visibility is 3 miles from the control station. The UAV cannot be operated from a moving vehicle or aircraft. The UAV must weigh less than 55 pounds (25 kg). However, there does not appear to be any restriction on total flight time.
An operator of a UAV would be required to be at least 17 years old, pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center, be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration, obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS (small unmanned aircraft systems) rating, and pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.
The FAA's proposed rules would exclude long range UAVs such as the Silent Falcon, which is claimed to be the first UAV capable of meeting long endurance mission profiles typical of many commercial, civil, public safety, and other operations. Its daytime endurance is estimated to be 5 to 12 hours depending on wing configuration, weather, and flight profile.
According to a report in Greentech Media, in July of this year San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) became the first utility in the country to begin a pilot program under a FAA Special Airworthiness Certificate. SDG&E plans to fly a pair of UAVs along a half-mile-wide, 2.5-mile-long stretch of transmission line right-of-way in remote eastern San Diego County. The objective is to demonstrate that UAVs are safe and effective and could replace helicopter flights for transmission line monitoring including vegetation management. Replacing helicopter flights, which are typically thousands of dollars per hour, with a UAV would dramatically reduce the cost of vegetation management for transmission lines.
SDG&E appears to be operating its UAVs within the rules proposed by the FAA in February. According to Greentech Media, SDG&E is operating its UAVs with the line-of-sight rule. Each UAV is always in sight of the pilot flying it and the pilot is not in a moving vehicle. The current transmission line being used for the test is in a remote, unpopulated area where there is little risk of the UAV flying over people not involved in operating it.
At the Year in Infrastructure conference in London in the Utilities breakout session I was invited to participate in an industry panel discussion on "Repair, Rehab, and Replacement of Aging Infrastructure". The two panelists I joined were Dr Nicole Metje, Senior Lecturer at Birmingham University, whose research focus is mapping and assessing the condition of buried utilities (a favorite topic of mine and will come back on this), and Paul Jewell, with Western Power Distribution (WPD), part of the NYSE listed PPL group. Paul is Policy Manager for WPD, responsible for WPD’s approach to innovation as it brings together the work of the Future Networks Team with the more traditional elements of management of an electricity distribution network.
One of the topics that came up early in the discussion was documentation about underground utility networks including geolocation. My experience in North America is that this information is treated as national security information and is not publicly available. I assumed that this was fairly typical of the rest of the world (although several years ago I did find a water utility in New Zealand, North Shore City, that had made its water network documentation available on the web). In the discussion Paul interjected that Western Power Distribution had made its network documentation including maps publicly available. I was very (pleasantly) surprised. I have blogged about countries, states, counties and cities making their data open. But open data and utilities almost seemed an oxymoron. (An exception is the Green Button program for consumers, which started as a United States Department of Energy initiative and was conceived as a way of bringing innovation into utilities.)
I followed up after the discussion and checked the Western Power Distribution web site (The site says that domestic/private customers should request plans using the phone number, email or postal address provided on the site.) Companies and organizations are referred to LinesearchbeforeUdig (LSBUD) which is a free service that allows a user to check their planned excavation against over 50 asset owners’ utility assets which include underground and overhead pipes and cables in the electricity, gas, high pressure fuel, water and fibre optic networks. WPD is a member utility of the LSBUD service. All that seems to be required to become a user of LSBUD is providing a UK street address and a valid email address.
This seems similar to the Dutch KLIC-Online system. In 2010 the Netherlands switched to a digital online call-before-you-dig system. With KLIC-Online the turnaround time for call-before-you-dig calls was reduced to hours compared to the manual system. Both the manual and KLIC-Online one-Call systems were voluntary until 2008 when made KLIC was made mandatory for both network operators and excavators with severe penalties for excavators who circumvented the system. In the Netherlands there is also a charge of € 29.50 for every excavation request, whereas the English system is free.
One of the 50 utilities participating in LSBUD is ESP Utilities Group Ltd, which operates gas and electricity infrastructure networks across Britain. It reports that LSBUD has meant that 99% of excavation enquiries are responded to automatically within 10 minutes.
At the Year in Infrastructure conference in London SA Water is one of the finalists for the annual Be Inspired Innovation in Roads Awards. Today Rowan Steele presented an overview of how SA Water, based in Adelaide, South Australia, has applied operation analytics to reduce the water utility's power bill by A$3 million.
South Australia has been suffering from an extended drought for nearly a decade and has just built a desalinization plant to provide more reliable water to their customers.
About 40% of the South Australian power generation is now renewable. Most of this is wind (33%) and solar (8%). Fluctuating sources of power generation means that the price of electricity can range widely from -A$1000 to A$13,000 per megawatt hour (Mwh).
The drought, the new desalinization plant and the fluctuating cost of power introduced complexity into managing what used to be a fairly simple water network.
To address these issues SA Water decided to invest significantly in IT to help manage the water network better. They acquired a hydraulic model that allowed them to simulate the network under different conditions. They also invested in an operational analytics tool.
Together these applications have helped them optimize their network in various ways, such as optimizing chlorine dosing (water from the desal plant has very little organics compared to river water), minimizing electric power costs and reducing water age in some parts of the network. The benefits have been significant. They not only have been able to reduce their power bill by A$3 million, but also have cut their network operating costs by nearly a A$ million. It has also resulted in improved water quality. For example, they can map water age geographically for their entire service area. More fundamentally it has given them much greater insight into sources of revenue and the costs of various aspects of operating a water network.
A highlight of the Year in Infrastructure conference in London are the Be Inspired Awards. The annual Be Inspired Awards competition brings together infrastructure professionals and members of the media to share innovative practices in infrastructure project design, engineering, construction, and operations and to celebrate the extraordinary work of the world’s architects, engineers, contractors and owner-operators. Infrastructure projects submitted for the awards range across 18 categories. One of them is Innovation in Utilities and Communications. This year's finalists provide examples of where the leading utilities in the world are investing in new technology to help them fundamentally transform the world's electric power system.
3D model of underground utility infrastructure
The location of existing underground utility infrastructure is more often than not poorly known which creates significant risk for infrastructure and highway construction projects. In this project Utility Mapping Services (UMS) created a 3D model of the existing underground and above ground infrastructure to reduce the risk associated with constructing an eight inch natural gas pipeline along a major highway.
To increase reliability for customers Puget Sound Energy planned the installation of an eight-inch, high-pressure natural gas main along one mile of SR 510 in Lacey, Washington. A major risk was that the project corridor includes complex utility infrastructure woven through dense commercial and residential areas with limited right-of-way and heavy traffic congestion. Creating a 3D model of the existing underground infrastructure enabled the design team to adjust the pipe elevation and horizontal alignment to avoid potential utility conflicts during design before a shovel touched the ground. The 3d model of existing utility infrastructure dramatically reduced the costs associated with unnecessary utility relocations, avoidable construction delays, and contractor change orders. It also allowed for tighter contractor bid estimates by providing a more accurate design. UMS's subsurface utility engineering (SUE) services group had been using new remote sensing technology such as ground penetrating radar (GPR) which allowed them to acquire 3-D data on existing underground utility infrastructure. The new SUE application created much greater value for the customer because UMS can now clearly convey to the client the issues presented by existing infrastructure and work with their design and construction teams and the utility infrastructure owners to minimize utility relocations and avoid surprises from buried unknowns.
Inshaat Utilities Management System
Inshaat is a system developed by the Municipality of Dubai to manage utility construction projects by automating drawing validation. It is intended to enable external consultants to submit drawings, engineering and other files via the Web. The system automatically checks submitted drawings against the utility's CAD standards and utility network engineering rules, and then converts and integrates the drawings with the master municipal network. Members of the design and engineering teams, management and other stakeholders can access drainage, sewerage, and irrigation network information via the Web. Making the entire project process digital not only reduced the municipal department staff’s project drawing validation time by 95 percent but also reduced paper usage in utility construction projects by 90 percent.
Engineering Contractor Collaboration Solution
Smart substations are the key to the next generation of the electric power grid. But for many utilities they are a bottleneck because of limited substation design resources. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) embarked on an innovative project to streamline the substation design process. PG&Es Substation Engineering Services deployed a new substation design system to approximately 80 internal design employees with efficiency gains of about $ 5 million in savings per year on contracted projects. PG&E hoped to realize similar benefits by extending it to external contractors. Enabling contractors located throughout the country to work in PG&E’s substation design environment not only enabled more effective, efficient, and secure collaboration with external contractors, but allowed PG&E to expand its substation design capacity by bringing in external contractors.