How National Grid decides and presents the best options for electricity transmission

Options Appraisal can be a lengthy process when determining an optimal design route for new transmission lines, or location for a substation. Traditionally this has required multiple teams flicking between sheets, maps and applications. However, today teams are starting to explore digital twin technology as a way to expedite this process and make better first-time decisions.

Learn how digital twin technologies are set to revolutionise optioneering.

Challenges faced in Options Appraisal

The optioneering of electricity transmission lines is a complex process that can be hindered by several challenges including

The lack of standardisation between data sources

When assessing design options for electricity transmission, the more context that can be used to inform plans, the better. However, the different file types, software licences and gatekeepers to information can make it difficult to assess multiple design options for electricity transmission.

The time required to assess each option

Assessing multiple design options can be time-consuming, particularly due to the back-and-forth often required between designs. It is important to verify and validate the results within the real world to ensure that the best decision is made.

Managing multiple stakeholders

When you’re working towards strengthening an options appraisal for your project stakeholder buying is essential. A project team will need to consider the needs of landowners, environmental groups and local residents in order to get stakeholders on side. And, managing the expectations and objectives of these different stakeholders requires clear communication channels.

Digital twin revolutionising optioneering

Digital twins are being adopted in numerous different situations across infrastructure, but their potential use in optioneering is only just starting to be explored as an application. Digital twin platforms are enabling expedited optioneering by helping teams to gain a better understanding of how different options would interact with the real world. Using a base map of reality created using autonomous data capture methods such as UAVs, project teams can overlay potential designs and visually inspect them in the context of the real world as well as other data sets such as land boundaries or flood risks. Using this holistic view of the proposed design options in the context of reality, teams are more thoroughly exploring different scenarios to find the best possible option from a desktop.

Using digital twin software you can find the most efficient way to move power from Point A to Point B without the need to go back and forth to the site. From a single desktop platform, you can explore all of the different options to make the best decisions and balance technical, environmental, socio-economic and cost impact.

Digital twin supporting electricity transmission optioneering

10 Benefits of leveraging digital twins in optioneering

  1. Remote visual inspection: Reduce risk and uncertainty from your desktop by layering and visualising all of your contextual data in one view you can reduce the risks and uncertainties associated with missing information.
  2. Iterate design options faster: Benefit from greater flexibility in uploading and testing different scenarios within the environment.
  3. See options in the context of the real world: Input routing and siting options to see exactly how designs interact with the environment.
  4. Improve stakeholder engagement: Viewpoints can be created automatically by digital twin platforms. For example, to assess how a design would affect the view from someone's house would no longer need specialist CAD drawers to draw up the viewpoint. Plans can be understood by the stakeholder and explored within a 3D environment.
  5. Start the consultation process earlier: The consulting teams can use the digital twin platform and its proposed designs to highlight risks early so that the project can progress faster.
  6. Improve site safety: Minimise the need to travel and visit remote sites. And, when boots are needed on the ground teams can arrive prepared for the environment and know exactly what to expect.
  7. Assess plans in 3D: Take your plans from 2D to 3D so you can see if you have clearance over trees in the real world.
  8. Minimise land access requirements: your teams can gain a better understanding of a site from their desktop.
  9. Improve collaboration: you and your teams can upload and collaborate over information which others can leverage for enhanced decision-making.
  10. Remove the flicking between different software: Use one digital environment to understand different layers of information within the wider context of the project.
Spot risk early

What to look for in a digital twin platform for electricity transmission optioneering

  • Ensuring data quality: The accuracy of digital twins depends on the quality of the data used to create them. This means that optioneering with digital twins can only be as effective as the data that is put into it.
  • Addressing security concerns: There are some concerns about the security of digital twins, as they can provide a detailed view of sensitive infrastructure. Optioneering with digital twins will need to address these concerns to be successful. Any platform you use should be able to detail what security measures are used to keep your data safe such as ISO 27001 (learn about Sensat’s security credentials).
  • Cost: The cost of implementing a digital twin is not always viable for smaller-scale projects because of the initial inputs and investment needed to capture data.

Digital twins offer a promising option for optioneering electricity transmission projects. By optioneering with digital twins, it is possible to reduce the risks and uncertainties associated with optioneering in the real world. Where before teams relied on several tools to examine and present consultation, digital twin platforms are one method of bringing people and data sources together to bridge the technical gap and understand projects more intimately.

Learn how Sensat supported National Grid to access a digital twin of their substation. Download the case study.

Further Reading

See Sensat in action

Better data. Accurate pricing. More innovative solutions.

Sensat application screenshot