SSEN takes to the skies to help build a stronger power supply

Data from LiDAR scanning

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is taking to the skies to improve the resilience of its electricity networks.

Working with NM Group, SSEN is using innovative aerial 3D laser scanning technology (LiDAR) to survey its entire overhead electricity network and is using this data to carry out preventative works designed to minimise the risk of tree-related power cuts to customers.

Using a fleet of specially equipped aircraft, the LiDAR system uses light sensors to create extremely accurate and detailed maps, revealing the exact distance – to as little as 2cm accuracy – that trees and other vegetation are positioned next to SSEN’s overhead electricity lines in the north of Scotland and central southern England. These maps enable SSEN’s teams to carry out targeted tree-cutting programmes and deliver maintenance work to help develop an even more robust network and improve the service the organisation delivers to its customers.

To date, SSEN has scanned 65% of its network in the north of Scotland. A data validation process will follow to allow SSEN’s teams to identify the areas of highest risk to the network operator and its customers.

In central southern England, SSEN has now flown 99% of its network and processed this data to directly inform its tree-cutting programmes and improve the resilience of the electricity network.

Stewart Reid, Head of DSO and Innovation at SSEN, said:

“This technology will really help us serve our customers better. For the very first time we now have pinpoint accuracy of our electricity networks. This means we can target our operations, such as tree cutting, taking proactive and preventative action to help deliver a safe and reliable supply of electricity to our customers.”

NM Group Managing Director, Kevin Jacobs added:

“We are very pleased to be working on this significant undertaking with SSEN. This kind of multi-year framework works particularly well on projects of this complexity. We are able to closely collaborate with SSEN, gaining a deeper understanding of their unique network and business objectives. It also means we can openly share new innovations and efficiency improvements over the contract lifecycle.”

Forward looking initiatives like this will help SSEN identify major disruption risks, better preparing the network for severe weather. This year, in preparation for winter, SSEN has invested £90m to improve the resilience of its network. This investment includes new and additional equipment, such as lightning protection and automation on its overhead power lines to help reduce the customer impact of power cuts and improve restoration times should severe weather conditions affect customer supplies.

Click here to watch a news piece from STV News of SSEN's LiDAR project. Video credit, Nicola McAlley, STV News.

About the author

Van on rural road

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

We're responsible for maintaining the electricity networks supplying over 3.7 million homes and businesses across central southern England and north of the Central Belt of Scotland. We own one electricity transmission network and two electricity distribution networks, comprising 106,000 substations and 130,000 km of overhead lines and underground cables across one third of the UK. Our first priority is to provide a safe and reliable supply of electricity to the communities we serve in Scotland and England.

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