Challenge

Cross Texas Transmission (CTT), a transmission affiliate of LS Power, wanted a robust set of tools to manage vegetation maintenance activities to ensure compliance with federal FAC-003 regulations which require extensive documentation of a utility's efforts to prevent flashover events due to vegetation encroachment. Penalties for violating these reliability standards can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
CTT's needs were as follows:
  • CTT wanted an intuitive map-based application to be used while performing aerial ROW patrols from a helicopter.
  • Potential vegetation encroachments would be documented and prioritized.
  • Possible encroachments would be sent to ground crews for verification and assignment to work crews
  • Completed work would be documented by contract vegetation crews.

Solution

Think Power Solutions developed a custom iOS application that allows quick and easy documentation of potential vegetation issues as well as mapping the general vegetation type of the ROW floor. The application is specifically designed for use in a helicopter with large buttons for rapid data collection and ease of use while flying.

Potential vegetation encroachments are sent electronically to a ground crew who verifies the actual condition and adds additional details as needed. Any locations that require work are sent to contract crews who either complete the work or return a cost estimate if required. Details about ROW access and landowner contact notes are also kept along the way and associated with the appropriate structures for future reference.

The system provides a simple and automated management dashboard which shows the status of all potential vegetation issues. Formal documentation is automatically filed by year and line segment for ease in reference during compliance audits. Additionally, the system allows for documenting avian issues such as active nesting, or reporting of any system hardware problems identified during a flight.

Resolution

CTT has been extremely happy with the solution provided by Think Power finding it easy to use while still being very thorough in the documentation of each step of the process. Although their program has not yet been through a formal FERC audit, CTT's VM Supervisor, Greg Smith "looks forward to it with confidence" knowing that they have a best in class program that provides them with easily accessible, detailed proof of compliance.