Rich Wilson, Meteorlogix
Reliability and outage management are vital components in the day-to-day operation of utilities. They keep the lights on, customer service up-to-speed and power flowing to end-users. Commercial weather services providers, like Meteorlogix, work with utilities across the country helping them to accurately forecast, predict and outline both short- and long-term weather data that they can then use to protect their field crews and help manage the bottom line.
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In the short run, these providers can tell a utility when and where severe weather such as thunderstorms, lightning, ice storms, tornadoes and hurricanes will hit, which the utility uses to predict the size of the materials and repair crews needed to restore power.
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In the long run, these providers work with utilities to predict how cold the winter will be in a given coverage area, or just how hot temperatures are expected to get in the summer. This information helps utilities plan for how much power they’ll need and whether they’ll have to purchase additional power through the spot market. The further ahead a utility can predict its electricity needs, the more economical it will be for them to buy on the market.
Where outage management is headed
While no existing weather systems can predict severe weather before it happens, geographical information system (GIS) mapping is a good example of the types of next generation weather tools that are now available for utilities. A system that combines GIS weather data and decision support tools designed for managers of utility companies will be a popular tool in any manager’s reliability arsenal. This technology allows utility managers to integrate and customize up-to-date weather information into their own operational maps, thereby seeing in real time a utility’s stationary and mobile assets and how they relate to current weather.
Case study: Tennessee Valley Authority
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), one of the largest electric power providers in the country, has been a Meteorlogix customer for the past eight years. Serving Tennessee and parts of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia, TVA has successfully utilized GIS capabilities to map all of its power lines. As a result, utility managers at TVA can access information on a specific pole based upon location coordinates. GIS-based information then provides the utility with an actual, live photo of the utility pole, a history of its maintenance work, the current temperature and the pole’s height. Then, if severe weather is expected to have an impact, the weather system automatically alerts TVA managers when severe weather is within a mile of that specific pole.
The true benefit of working with a complete weather solutions provider is the ability to integrate the information into areas that expand beyond weather. A utility based in South Carolina, for example, uses GIS capabilities to automatically reserve hotel rooms for its utility crews during hurricane season. Area hotels are mapped into the GIS system based upon their latitude and longitude coordinates and, when the surrounding climate meets severe weather criteria, the system automatically reserves a predetermined number of hotel rooms located just outside the eye of the storm.
Wilson is the director of energy services at Meteorlogix, a commercial weather services provider that offers MXInsight EnergyWatch, the company’s own GIS mapping product. Based in Minneapolis, the company provides weather solutions to more than 1,000 utilities including Tennessee Valley Authority, Wisconsin Electric, NSTAR and Tampa Electric. Additional information about Meteorlogix can be found on the Web at www.meteorlogix.com.