In the past few years, late October has brought catastrophic weather to Connecticut – from a freak October snowstorm to last year’s Superstorm Sandy that disrupted electric service for eight million customers from Maryland to Maine. The company is currently launching a new damage assessment tool that will make the process of surveying damage to the electric system following a storm more efficient, and provide real-time information about the materials and resources needed to make repairs.
"In the aftermath of a storm, a utility company must physically survey the damage to its system to learn what repairs must be made and determine how long those repairs will take,” explained Peter Clarke, Senior Vice President of Emergency Preparedness for Northeast Utilities, parent company of CL&P. “The number one question after a storm is “when will my power be back?” With this technology and the improvements to our damage assessment process, we’ll be able to make those restoration estimates more quickly.”
CL&P is the first utility in the country to use this state-of-the art technology, integrating a new damage assessment tool with the company’s existing outage management system. The new tool was developed by CL&P and Clearion Software, LLC, a Georgia-based developer specializing in GPS-enabled technologies for utility vegetation. It combines CL&P’s Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping data with information about the distribution system and GPS street location data.
Traditionally, damage assessment patrollers in the field take notes of the damage and deliver that information back to the office. After a major storm, there can be tens of thousands of damage locations requiring repairs – in Superstorm Sandy, there were more than 16,000 such locations. With the new system, patrollers travel with laptops that automatically display detailed information about the electrical equipment on the street, based on GPS locations. When the patrollers encounter damage, they click on the screen and indicate the specific problem – such as a broken pole, downed wires or a damaged transformer – and the system sends the information back to the office instantly. If the patrol team is in an area with no cellular service, the system stores the information and automatically uploads it when service is available again.
This technology drastically reduces the amount of time it takes to transmit information about damage and required repairs from the field to the planning and logistics teams in the office. Those teams can better plan the work and deploy crews more efficiently with the exact materials needed, and better estimates can be provided regarding the length of time to complete repairs.
By the end of this year, the new damage assessment tool will be fully implemented across CL&P’s service territory.