Today the energy industry is under pressure as we stride towards net zero targets and expand our grid connections. As a part of the UK Government's acceleration of homegrown power in Britain, there is an immense amount of planning and grid expansions on the horizon across the UK. However, the industry’s pace isn’t as fast as we’d hoped.
There are many complexities around upgrading grid connections and various areas that can gain efficiencies through technology. This blog explores the importance of precise and accurate measurements during the planning stage for energy transmission projects and how teams can use a visualisation platform to take measurements from their desktop.
Editor’s Note: This post has been adapted from the original post ‘The importance of precise measurements’ in May 2022 to be focused on Energy Transmission.
A perfect storm across the Energy sector
Across the Energy sector, there are many reasons we need to streamline processes, arguably the most pressing being our Net Zero commitments by 2030 in the UK. Sensat CEO, James Dean comments:
“We're facing an extraordinary storm in the energy sector. A combination of increasing demand, ageing transmission infrastructure and the need for a rapid shift towards renewables, require additional infrastructure to support this. The clock is ticking.”
Chris Glover, director of the Energy Transition team at Buro Happold recently cited in the New Civil Engineer, “The pace at which change is happening is not sufficient if we want to ensure a fit-for-purpose UK electricity network.” And rightly so; we need to pick up the pace.
Today, teams are only just starting to leverage new delivery methods due to the immense pressure on the industry. And, anyway that can save time and improve productivity should be welcomed, be it more efficient cabling upgrades, to leveraging smarter planning methods. It will take a joint effort from every element involved.
Why accurate measurement matters
During the planning phase of an Energy project, the ability to make the best decisions from your data can be the difference between projects which obtain approval and those that don't. Proposal inaccuracies, especially on Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs), can delay months of preparation, sending teams back to the drawing board.
As we upgrade and expand our grid, we have a lot of planning to do. And while having planning meetings based on outdated Google Earth data and pdfs is commonplace today, basing decisions on legacy data does affect confidence in decision-making.
Traditionally, these measurements have been collected through physical site visits. However, in-person visits can require lengthy land access permissions and increase safety risks to staff. Additionally, these costs are further exacerbated when sites are dispersed across the UK all factors slowing team decision-making.
Leveraging remote measurements
Amongst the hundreds of innovations popping up across the Energy industry, leveraging visualisation platforms to undertake remote site measurements is one clear route to improving efficiencies.
Teams are leveraging visualisation platforms to combine many data sets over a backdrop of the real world to plan, expand and operate electricity transmission cable routes, stations and substations. Using these platforms, teams can take accurate measurements between the different data sets and check the viability of options, a task previously impossible without site visits.
For example, by layering your 3D point cloud, design options and topographic CAD models, you can take a single height measurement to view how your proposed electricity transmission designs interact with the real world. Using the combined view of proposed plans against the real world, teams can get even more insight than what would be available if you were to take measurements on-site.
5 reasons you should be using remote desktop measurements to bolster options selection:
1. Ensuring regulatory compliance with the existing environment and infrastructure.
Infrastructure projects are subject to various regulations, permits, and zoning requirements. Precise measurements ensure that the project designs adhere to these regulations and avoid legal complications. For instance, setback distances from property lines, environmental protection zones, or height restrictions can all be accurately determined from your desktop, enabling compliance with local building codes and land-use regulations.
Teams can better evaluate the various design options by measuring designs against the surrounding environment and other data sets, such as protected areas. Using accurate measurements, teams can compare the measured data against specific criteria or requirements, enabling a more objective and data-driven decision-making process.
2. Earlier hazard and constraint detection
When planning new infrastructure, it is crucial to consider the surrounding environment and any existing infrastructure. Precise measurements allow for better integration and coordination with existing structures, utilities, road networks, and other facilities. Accurate data sets will also help identify potential hazards and constraints, enabling the selection of the best design option more quickly.
3. Cost Estimation and Resource Allocation
Using a visualisation platform, your team can evaluate the changes in topology to identify constraints that might have otherwise been overlooked. For example, by combining a DEFRA topology layer with designs, you can visually assess how different options interact with the terrain. Using remote measurement tools you can measure the earthworks which would be required to estimate costs associated with options.
4. Health and Safety
Sites can be dangerous and difficult to access in person, ranging from conducting cliff inspections to accessing the land surrounding electricity substations. Using desktop measurements, teams can minimise risk and eliminate the risk of going on-site. If remote measurements are not possible, you can still enable proactive risk identification using the digital environment. This allows teams to be well-educated about the conditions before physically visiting the site.
5. Minimise site visits and the need for land access approvals
Instead of sending your team back and forth, sometimes across the UK or beyond, for site measurements, you can now take measurements anytime, from any internet-connected device. This will significantly reduce wasted travel time and eliminate the need to obtain additional land access permissions, which can take weeks. Instead, you and your team can quickly approve or eliminate designs without having to wait for measurement results.
Better data for better decisions
The ability to take precise and accurate measurements during the planning phase is crucial for the success of a project. By leveraging visualisation platforms and taking remote measurements from your desktop, project teams can streamline access to accurate data sets and avoid the challenges associated with traditional site visits.
To learn more about what you can achieve using Sensat, check out how Lightrock Power accelerated 8 solar farms’ development processes.