REC recently partnered with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) on a progressive project that could improve the reliability of electric service not only for REC's member-owners but for utilities across the globe.
"This has the potential to help REC greatly reduce the number of tree-related outages and significantly improve reliability for our member-owners," Cindy Musick, REC's Director of Vegetation Management, said. "Ultimately, if this can be accurate, it would be groundbreaking for the utility industry around the world, and REC is proud to partner with EPRI to be at the cutting edge of this research."
Trees are the No. 1 cause of power outages. Today, the Cooperative's Vegetation Management Team uses a proactive maintenance strategy to compile ground-level data to identify hazard trees within the system.
EPRI, the lead researcher on the new research project, reached out to REC after collecting satellite data on trees in a right of way in REC's service territory. The satellite data used hyperspectral analysis to determine the amount of chlorophyll on a leaf's surface.
A healthy tree will have a lot, while a tree in decline will have far less. A tree that's dead won't even register. By using technology to identify trees that are in declining health, those trees can be proactively removed before damaging power lines. EPRI shared the data with REC, whose foresters then went to the right of way to visually inspect the trees. They then compared the ground-level data with the information gathered from the satellites.
Additional research and analysis continue, but REC's director of vegetation management said this technology could dramatically help REC identify hazard trees before they fall and cause a power outage.
"Ensuring our member-owners have safe and reliable electricity is our priority," Musick added. "We look forward to continuing to work with EPRI hopefully helping to launch this technology across the industry."