National Grid to harness space technology to boost energy resilience
Image credit: National Grid
The ‘Eye in the Sky’ initiative aims to explore how satellite imagery and data analytics could improve the visibility of Britain’s electricity and gas network infrastructure and prevent some of the worst impacts of climate change.
The organisation has trialled using satellite imagery and data analytics across more than 1,700 miles of the energy network in its initial discovery phase.
The initiative is being funded by Ofgem and Innovate UK’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), with a view towards improving the monitorisation of the condition of key electricity and gas infrastructure around the clock to enable the National Grid to respond to issues more quickly.
National Grid claims the project, which will commence ‘alpha’ testing in August 2023, 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,” said Sean Coleman, National Grid’s innovation manager.
“If a change is detected, the technology could inform an engineer on the ground who can analyse 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.”
Currently, energy networks are monitored using traditional techniques such as ground patrols and aerial surveillance from drones and helicopters. Although these are still essential for close-up inspection of equipment, they are often unable to access the most remote parts of the network quickly.
In contrast, the new satellite approach will enable the most remote parts of the network to be monitored around the clock. In the long term, the project could create predictive models for future events associated with climate change.
The project is looking at how satellite images and analytics can be beamed back to specialist engineers to assess changes to infrastructure and its environment – perhaps caused by geographic anomalies, extreme weather or human interference – allowing rapid assessment of risk or damage, more efficient deployment of teams to fix issues, and network reconfiguration to avoid outages.
Some of the partners in the project include the European Space Agency, Cranfield University, satellite data specialist Spottitt and DNV, a company that specialises in risk management and quality assurance.
“With a lack of geospatial information about what is going on in and around our critical assets causing £200bn-worth of preventable losses globally, it is exciting to see how the scale, revisit frequency and overall monitoring potential of satellites is being increasingly recognised and explored by owners of critical infrastructure of all types,” said Lucy Kennedy, CEO and co-founder of Spottitt.
Rafiek Versmissen, head of Energy Strategy Advisory at DNV, added: “This is an imaginative project that will use comprehensive data collection to improve the visibility and contribute to increasing the resilience of our network infrastructure. The result will demonstrate, clearly, the actions required for efficient network planning, safety and risk mitigation.
“The use of satellites to monitor the grid is a radical innovation and we, in DNV, are delighted to be a partner in this project.”
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.