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GIS: Helping Utilities Weather the Storm

image credit: ID 111254173 © motortion | Dreamstime.com

This item is part of the GIS - Special Issue - 07/2019, click here for more

  • More than 2,000 customers Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) were affected by an outage. 
  • More than 7,000 Rocky Mountain Power customers were without power Monday morning in UT
  • As many as 12,000 customers lost power during an outage in Jamestown, NY.    
  • 51,000 customers in Hawaii lost power after Hurricane Barbara. 
  • Blackout in Manhattan leaves 90,000 without power
  • Storms and flooding in Arlington, VA left several business without power.

Whether its wind, rain or failing equipment, utility operators are faced with outages and the tremendous task of restoring power as quickly as possible.  The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said power outages cost more than $150 billion annually so utilities are eager to manage and prevent their darkest fears.  How have they met the challenge?  Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes historical outage data collected by utilities and allows a computer to generate predictions for future needs based on forecasted weather conditions.  With a recent release that combines domain expertise with AI and machine learning (ML), GE Power is providing new analytics to tackle challenges in electric grid operations.  One of the three grid analytics packages uses data from across transmission and distribution networks to help utilities manage storm readiness.  Utilities also create simulations to prepare for outages but a great deal of data is required to recreate an event and review how the grid actually performed. It requires having a system that can capture all the devices on the grid and assemble the information in a way that can be replayed in real time. 

The Storm Readiness package that GE Power has uses high-resolution weather forecasts, outage history, crew response and geographic information system (GIS) data to visualize, question, analyze, and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns and trends.  GIS is still mapping, analyzing and managing geographic information but the digital shift makes maps available on many devices and allows for centralized updates and greater accuracy. 

Esri, a global market leader and supplier of GIS software, recently awarded San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) with an International Award for Use of GIS Technology.  Jimmie Cho, senior vice president of customer services for SoCalGas and senior vice president of distribution operations for SoCalGas and SDG&E stated, ”Whether it's helping our staff provide excellent customer service to homes and businesses, or using mapping data to monitor pipelines or power lines during an emergency response, Esri's platform helps us keep our systems in service, increase productivity, and ultimately serve our customers better.”  Jack Dangermond, Esri founder and president explained, ”Both utilities have created a platform that is agile, helps mitigate damage and provides support to the people who need it, when they need it.”

Almost every data point at a utility can be tied to the map via a customer, an asset, a crew, or even the work being performed.  That fact alone highlights the benefits of using GIS data and as it relates to outage management, the data is invaluable. Unifying data on a secure, scalable and user-friendly platform drives efficiencies, allowing data stored in one location to be used by many systems across the energy value chain, from generation to consumption.  Armed with new tools and innovative technology, utility operators just might be able to weather the storms.

Nevelyn Black's picture

Thank Nevelyn for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 22, 2019 6:12 pm GMT

Almost every data point at a utility can be tied to the map via a customer, an asset, a crew, or even the work being performed

Boy, I'd love to get a behind the scenes tour and see what those maps and computers look like on the daily. My imagination takes me here:

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