The National Grid is leading the “Eye in the Sky” initiative, which is being funded by Ofgem and Innovate UK’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF).
The initiative has completed an initial ‘discovery’ phase, trialling satellite imagery and data analytics across more than 1,700 miles of energy network. It is hoped these new techniques can be used to monitor the condition of key electricity and gas infrastructure around the clock, which will enable the National Grid to respond to issues more quickly.
Traditional ways of monitoring currently include ground patrols and aerial surveillance from drones and helicopters. The new satellite approach will enable the most remote parts of the network to be monitored around the clock.
The current initiative will support business-as-usual maintenance like detecting objects of weather events that could pose a risk to infrastructure. National Grid believes it could also reduce the chances of outages and reduce emissions by scheduling aerial and ground patrols more efficiently.
In the long term, the project could create predictive models for future events associated with climate change.
National Grid claims the project, which will begin “alpha” testing in August, could deliver up to £22m in cost savings over the next decade.
“Eye in the Sky is exploring the really exciting prospect of using satellites to monitor grid infrastructure and the surrounding area, helping us understand how and why networks are being affected,” National Grid’s innovation manager Sean Coleman said.
“If a change is detected, the technology could inform an engineer on the ground who can analyze the data to make a more informed decision on how to respond. It could further streamline our processes and bring benefits to consumers in terms of cost and grid resilience.”
The initiative recently won extended funding through SIF to further develop its concept. Partners include the European Space Agency, Cranfield University, satellite data specialist Spottitt and experts in risk management and quality assurance DNV supporting the project’s initial phases.
With icy and snowy conditions hitting the UK this week, the National Grid has moved to respond to the likelihood of outages caused by cold weather.
At the start of the week, National Grid’s electricity system operator (ESO) noted that two “winter contingency coal units” in the form of power plants would be available to help meet additional energy demand during the cold spell.
However, the National Grid has since found that the two units will not be needed, due to other energy sources, including wind, delivering the required back-up capacity.
The colder temperatures prompted UK power prices to hit a record high on Sunday.
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