SA Power Networks is an innovation leader in electricity distribution in Australia, particularly as it manages the State’s rapid transition to a net-100% renewable energy system. It supplies South Australia’s population of 1.7 million people across an area of 178,000 square kilometres (>110,000 miles). SA Power Networks partnered with Neara to assess network damage and risk through digital flood impact modelling.
In the River Murray flood, the worst since 1956, 400 miles of powerline and some 4,000 power poles were inundated by floodwater.
Floods can have devastating impacts on utility networks and put two of utilities’ greatest priorities, safety and reliability, at odds. As water levels rise, utilities need to ensure that water doesn’t come into contact with electrified equipment as contact presents a life-threatening risk of electric shock to communities, field crews, and emergency responders. However, at the same time, utilities work hard to keep critical electricity live and accessible to their community.
SA Power Networks used state-of-the-art technology to inform, manage and speed its response to the River Murray flood event.
By utilizing Neara’s AI-powered modelling capabilities, SA Power Networks completed a report in fifteen minutes analyzing 21,000 powerline spans within the flood impacted area. This process would have taken many months to complete utilizing manual business systems and resources.
The 3D modelling obtained allowed SA Power Networks to model impacts on electricity distribution network assets at various flood levels and to predict where and when powerlines would breach clearances or be inundated requiring electricity disconnection. And, as the river levels have returned to normal, the modelling has been used to assist in planning reconnection of supply along the river.
“By monitoring water and clearance levels daily, SA Power Networks was able to leave power on for longer for many customers along the river as the floodwaters rose and also restore power more quickly as water receded,” said General Manager, Network Management, Doug Schmidt.
“This innovative approach, based on digital insights, allowed for the re-energization of power lines within five days compared with the originally anticipated three-week time frame using traditional manual methods.
“The data also was an essential part of ensuring safety for the community, emergency service personnel and our people through the flood event,” said Mr. Schmidt.
“We are particularly proud of the fact that despite the very real risks associated with hundreds of kilometres of powerline and electricity infrastructure standing in floodwaters, we have not had one report of electric shock throughout the extended flood period.”
The work has provided SA Power Networks with a rich source of highly accurate data that will be used to manage the flood recovery and future flood events along the River.
“With Neara we refined the flood modeling process to conduct network impact analysis and reporting in the midst of what was a major environmental emergency,” said SA Power Networks Strategic Initiative Manager, Paul Topping.
“Visualizing how our assets were behaving under flood conditions helped rapidly accelerate our re-energization plan and stabilize the network to the benefit of thousands of residents.
“We are currently in the process of sharing the LiDAR data gathered with the State Government and other agencies and have no doubt it will provide valuable insights on floodwater behavior and inform future planning and responses to flood events on the River Murray,” Mr. Topping said.