When extreme weather strikes, utilities must jump into action and ensure power restoration as quickly as possible. The risk is ever-present and ever-growing as climate change, and rising customer expectations become more common.
During a storm, the problem quickly comes into focus: the severe weather. While weather intelligence is vital to optimizing your response and is a large piece of the puzzle, it is only one piece.
In order to restore power as quickly and safely as possible, utilities need access to non-weather information–a data set that has information about the problem and gives it context.
You have to know what you’re preparing for, but you also need to know what you are protecting. Simply put, a complete solution requires a complete view of the problem.
Storm Impact Analytics provides more than simple weather data. It shows how the weather affects your utility and provides insight that considers your unique service territory and infrastructure.
This article will discuss the type of non-weather intelligence that is needed to provide a complete solution. It will also show how weather modeling and predictive analytics complement the data.
Knowing your service territory well is a key to providing an intelligent response to severe weather.
For example, you need to know the location of your infrastructure. Where are your transformers? Are there any vulnerable areas where the risk is high, say near a river or along an embankment?
You also need to know your infrastructure. Is it underground in maintenance holes or above ground on poles? How tall are its towers, and how wide are they spread across streets?
When your weather data predicts the path of a storm, you will know what that will look like on the ground. As a result, you can understand what types of institutions are likely to be affected and prepare them for a possible outage before it takes place.
Additionally, you can focus your efforts on areas where the impact is the greatest, such as around hospitals, long-term care homes, and other important institutions.
Age of infrastructure
Aging infrastructure is a growing concern for many utilities. In fact, in the United States, the average age of a grid is 40 years, with more than 25% of the grid aged 50 or older.
While billions of dollars have been requested to support comprehensive modernization plans, only a fraction have been approved. As a result, progress has been slow, and there is much work to be done.
Many utilities have begun work on grid hardening and implementing resiliency measures. However, having that infrastructure information at your fingertips will help you make a quick decision during a weather event.
Do you know the age and condition of your infrastructure? Where are the weaknesses in your system? Could you find that information quickly and make a confident decision about where to allocate resources in the face of extreme weather?
Vegetation management is a crucial piece of information to consider when handling extreme weather events. For example, vegetation growing near a downed power line can quickly change a minor issue into a raging forest fire.
There are several aspects to consider, including the soil characteristics in your area and the type and density of vegetation. Additionally, vegetation management is cyclical. The team responsible for vegetation management has different priorities and challenges depending on the season.
During the summer, a trees’ leaves may create a sail against the wind. Compare that to the winter, when a branch may more easily break as snow and ice weigh it down.
The soil condition in your area becomes essential when reacting to a downed power line. Some types of soil are more conductive than others, so knowing your soil type will help you assess the scope of the risk of a downed power line.
When the power goes out, your goal is to get it back up and running as soon as possible. However, with today’s stretched budgets and leaner organizational structures, that is becoming more and more difficult.
Your mutual assistance network can help. Having a network of skilled line workers and logistical support can drastically cut your restoration times. Additionally, you won’t need to burn your budget by hiring outside contractors.
Knowing the details of the mutual assistance available to you and where it is relative to your service territory is an essential piece of information to have during a storm. It will allow you to make more informed decisions on where and how many crews to deploy, as well as what type of equipment they should bring.
Additionally, resources are limited. Securing the resources you need as quickly as possible is the best way to ensure that the help is there when you need it. Therefore, knowing how severe the storm will be as far advance as possible is information that you’ll need to get your mutual assistance and other help in place.
When the sky is dark with swirling leaves and branches or thick snowflakes come down sideways, it may be challenging to think clearly about anything else but quickly getting your system back up and running. When you are under pressure, the more information you have, the better decisions you will make.
More than weather intelligence
As you can see, severe weather affects many aspects of your utility. Having a complete view of what can be involved will take your weather intelligence and create a story.
When a storm rages in your area, how will it affect your infrastructure? What vegetation will be affected, and to what extent? What mutual assistance do you need, and what is available?
We believe that the best plans are specific and backed by data. However, not all data is created equally.
For example, utilities traditionally relied upon weather stations for their weather intelligence. However, many of these are located near airports, which are less densely populated and do not have the type of energy use that may be typical in other parts of your service area.
That is one advantage that Storm Impact Analytics provides. It combines the weather information provided by industry-leading solutions with non-weather intelligence specific to your utility.
These pieces come together to create a complete picture – one that not only tells you what weather is coming but provides the operational intelligence you need to make wise decisions.
Learn more today about what reliable, accurate, and complete data could mean for your utility before, during, and after severe weather.