Don Bauer, a senior engineer at Montana Power Co., Butte, Montana, U.S., has observed the growing role of computers in T&D line design and engineering firsthand. Starting off in transmission design in 1981, before computers created "keyboard design," he remembers the era of field-survey crews, project notebooks and drafting tables.

"In the last decade, there have been vast improvements in terms of individual tools for T&D line designers, such as CAD programs that could draw an elevation profile from data gathered by a survey gun," says Bauer. "These tools made small pieces of the design process easier. But the first automated line design package to incorporate every function a T&D engineer needs at his fingertips was LineSoft's LD-Pro."

LD-Pro automates the design of overhead and underground line projects, from the development and application of design criteria through detailed analysis and generation of cost estimates and materials lists. Least-cost-design optimization is included as an integral part of the design process.

By merging local utility and industry-wide construction and design standards with the enormous volume of engineering data required to generate typical line-design projects, it allows designers significant latitude in design-cost optimization based on adjustable criteria.

"Providing our designers with the ability to model and perform cost-evaluations on virtual designs, based on all the required elements of sound utility T&D engineering practice, has become necessary to our survival. Especially with the kind of design staff reductions we've seen over the last few years," he says.