Top 5 Earth Observation Business Cases For Utilities O&M in 2022

Earth Observation satellites are used by utilities all over the world to increase their risk awareness and digitalise their operations. But what kind of data can satellites provide, and what are the most common use cases?

While some innovative organisations are exploring the capabilities of new sensors, such as methane and thermal, there are several business cases that are becoming common in the market. Based on our extensive experience working with utilities of all kinds and sizes, in many different countries, here are the Top 5 use cases for utilities O&M.

1) Vegetation management and wildfire prevention
Many power TSOs and DSOs want to optimize vegetation management activities. Satellites can help them move from calendar-based towards risk-based actions, by telling them, where the vegetation is closest to their power lines, if the corridor has been properly cleared by their contractors, location of unhealthy trees at risk of being blown down. Satellites can even provide data on the wind conditions, humidity and temperatures along power lines so utilities can prevent wildfires caused by power strikes.
2) Detection of dangerous human activities
Human activities above underground pipelines or under HV power lines, such as unauthorized building works, represent a huge threat to the integrity of the assets and to the workers themselves. Satellites can help network operators monitor their network at scale, as frequently as every couple of weeks.
3) Preventing landslides and understanding land motion
Landslides can be a big threat to utilities managing extensive assets on mountainous and high rainfall areas. Moreover, land movements can create major issues for both overhead and underground assets, especially when two areas close to each other are moving in different directions. Satellites can help predict and monitor landslides, as well as continuously monitoring the direction and speed of land movement over time.
4) Monitoring extreme weather events

Climate change is driving an increase in the number and severity of extreme weather events in many parts of the World. Floods, storms, heat waves, can all cause serious threats to asset integrity and service continuity, especially for exposed overhead power lines. Earth Observation satellites can help in both understanding how a networks risks have changed over the last 15 years as well as near real time monitoring of extreme events to help utilities prepare and respond quicker.

5) Monitoring biodiversity
More and more utilities are starting to see themselves not only as energy, gas or water distributors, but also as landowners that need to care about the sustainability of their distribution activities on the environment. Therefore, sustainability managers are starting to account for the evolution of the natural capital in and around their assets. For them satellites offer a unique opportunity to track and monitor the changing biodiversity and value of their natural assets.

While Earth Observation might seem new to many utilities, few know that it is increasingly being used by those who manage extensive networks, especially in rural areas. While the technical capabilities of the technology and services available are improving fast, there are already several viable use cases that make satellites a no-brainer for utilities’ asset managers.

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