Alliant Energy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa contracted with ECI to evaluate vegetation conditions on their expansive transmission system. ECI conducted an aerial inspection of the transmission system and also completed a ground survey of field conditions at specific locations identified during the flyover.
The goal of this project was to help identify opportunities to enhance existing vegetation management operations and to validate the effectiveness of management techniques, many of which are in accordance with industry best practices. The results of ECI's evaluation will help Alliant fine-tune and/or enhance its current vegetation management efforts by:
Significant societal and economic benefits accrue through multiple uses of electric transmission rights-of-way (ROWs). However, authorization of multiple ROW uses has the potential to be detrimental to the safe, reliable transmission of electricity. Research conducted by ECI for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is providing information to help utilities better evaluate the myriad of current and potential ROW uses, establish effective protocols, and identify the best opportunities for appropriate expansion of ROW uses.
ECI performed a survey of industry experts knowledgeable about the varied uses of their respective transmission ROWs. The survey had five primary goals: 1) Explore overall utility attitude toward multiple ROW uses, 2) Understand the general processes utilities rely upon to manage such multiple uses, 3) Determine the frequency of specific common multiple ROW uses, 4) Ascertain the benefits, risks, authorization processes, and experiences related to each use, and 5) Facilitate comparisons by region. ECI also performed a literature review on ROW multiple uses, with a focus on risks and benefits. The literature review revealed 46 relevant publications since 1983 relating to ROW multiple uses. The references feature journal articles, conference and symposium proceedings, select newspaper articles, and a published legal decision.
ECI has been providing a variety of contract vegetation management personnel to FPL for several years. ECI Consulting Arborists offer a wide range of services in support of FPL's line clearance operations. ECI Arborists manage and plan vegetation maintenance associated with reactive maintenance, including interfacing with customers. Vegetation maintenance requirements associated with new line construction projects or other capitol upgrades are identified by ECI's team, and managed to help ensure that future vegetation conflicts are minimized. ECI's team also audits completed vegetation maintenance to ensure compliance with specifications.
In addition to primary duties, the flexibility of ECI's personnel services is demonstrated by the multitude of other responsibilities and roles that the team regularly assumes. For example, ECI employees are regularly called on to complete special projects such as establishing a database of codes and ordinances for all municipalities in FPL's service area. ECI's Consulting Arborists also played a key role in FPL's 2004 hurricane restoration efforts, including managing all vegetation maintenance activities in a region. An ECI Arborist has also been responsible for the dispatch and coordination of vegetation maintenance resources in Dade and Broward Counties.
ECI currently manages the KCP&L line clearance program under a Total Management Services arrangement. The project includes the provision of a contract personnel team that include Arborists and Work Planners. ECI also provides its electronic work planning system (eWPS), as well as TRES (Trim Report and Evaluation System), ECI's tree crew production reporting and monitoring system.
Based on a circuit prioritization schedule, ECI Work Planners systematically patrol assigned circuits and identify line clearance requirements in accordance with specifications. Work is planned using ECI's eWPS remote data collection system. Maintenance requirements are entered into the system in the field, and the data is then uploaded to a remote server. Work orders are generated by the system and given to the tree contractors, who then complete maintenance. ECI Arborists audit completed maintenance to ensure compliance with specifications and objectives.
The use of ECI processes and personnel have resulted in significant improvements in reliability, and reduced operating costs at KCP&L.
ECI conducted a complete vegetation inventory of a portion of the Progress Energy Florida distribution system for the purpose of determining how the 2004 hurricanes impacted work scheduled for 2005. Experienced consulting arborists were assigned to gather information about vegetation management needs by circuit.
Progress Energy Florida maintains vegetation on more than 1,200 distribution circuits, extending over 18,000 line miles. Thousands of trees on many of these circuits were blown down or damaged during the hurricanes, necessitating emergency line clearance work in the aftermath of the storms. Consequently, workload had changed considerably since a series of hurricanes struck Florida beginning in August of 2004. ECI's inventory provided information so Progress Energy Florida could appropriately adjust the resource allocations and schedules that are necessary to maintain the remaining trees following the storm devastation.
The comprehensive Program Review, which ECI completed for Westar Energy, is but one example of more than 140 similar studies completed by ECI over the past 30 years. Through a statistically valid sample survey of workload on the distribution system, ECI was able to project overall tree and brush maintenance needs on the distribution system, and model various approaches to scheduling preventive line clearance maintenance.
ECI also evaluated the line clearance processes and methods utilized by Westar and compared them to industry best practices. ECI provided an objective evaluation of many effective practices and also identified opportunities for improvement, together with the resources necessary to achieve both cost and service reliability objectives.
On implementing a new and improved vegetation management program: “We would not be where we are now without the help of ECI.”
-Winston Smith, Vice President, Nashville Electric Service