New-tilities is a new term which refers to the changing world confronting electric cooperatives. Major technology trends are revolutionizing the electric utility industry. New opportunities are being created and threats to the old way of doing business. Electric coop are wrestling with change. GIS or geographic information systems is at the centre of these changes. New developments in GIS are making it easier for electric coops to better manage their organizations. In this article we will dig a little deeper.

New-tilities: GIS and Overcoming the Challenges faced by Electric Cooperatives

What is GIS?

GIS is a system which provides ways to visualize and analyse business critical data geographically. There are 3 core pieces to a GIS:

1. Centralized Authoritative Data

In simple terms GIS provides a central, single source of coop mission critical data. One place to look for asset data for example: poles, fuses, transformers, switches, substations etc

2. Maps

Maps provide an intuitive way to visualize, explore and search for organizational data. Maps are a key output from a GIS. Show me the location of pole x, share outage information for the public on a map etc. Below we have located an asset, the pop up shows the associated data.

3. Analysis

Answering mission critical questions is the true power of GIS. Most of the work done by coops involves managing and interacting with geographically dispersed elements; assets, staff, inventory, members/customers etc. GIS can analyse these elements, and provide answers: show me all the homes affected by an outage, where is the downed pole, which vegetation areas need to be sprayed this year, assessing storm impact, is there a discernible hazard reporting pattern?

Electric Coop GIS Use Cases

As a company our goal is to provide universal access to GIS, maps and analytics anywhere, anytime, on any device. For electric coops three use cases illustrate how GIS can provide solutions to some very specific organizational challenges:

Asset Management

There are many asset management options available, some built into a GIS directly, some third party systems. But having the ability to view the location of all assets, and accessing rich data about each asset is today ever more crucial.

Advances in GIS with new releases such as ArcGIS Online, is providing new tools to better manage assets.

Vegetation Management

Vegetation management can be challenging. GIS provides a powerful way to better manage vegetation. Let’s provide two examples. Tracking spray control cycles can be tough. Using a GIS, spray data can be collected and tracked for each of these cycles. As the diagram below shows when an area is sprayed: year, weed type, density, area and other data can all be collected, stored and displayed on a map. If spaying is conducted every two years, a GIS makes it easy to query the data and show on a map those areas due for respray.

Coordinating teams involved with vegetation clearing is another area made simpler using GIS. Mobile GIS provides the ability for crews to view the location and notes on work which needs to be done. In the example below we show tree removal. In this case the work agreement for a specific tree is provided. Crews can be guided by the notes, and provide updates to these notes. This data is all centrally stored in a GIS, providing not only a current guide but historical record. Having past data is important given the ongoing nature of vegetation clearance.

Pole Audit and Outage Source

Having good accurate records of the location and a full audit of every pole is critical. In a situation where there is a problem, time is of the essence. That means quickly isolating the problem, sending crews out to the exact problem location, and providing those crews with the parts they need to make the repairs. GIS provides all the tools needed to gather and store accurate pole information, to map pole locations, provide routing information for repair crews, and reporting on work completed. GIS can also be used to share with the public outage information. Tools like asset locators provide ways for utility staff to search for and locate other assets including fuses, transformers, switches and substations

Using GIS to Better Connect with Members

GIS now offers new and better ways to connect with members. The image below shows a new ArcGIS app which provides an easy way for coop members to report a streetlight problem. There are many other ways GIS can be used to help members provide feedback and access real time information.

Electric Coops are facing increasing demands. New advances in GIS technology is revolutionizing coops, helping them overcome many of their new challenges.

Contact us for more information on 801-733-0723.


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