Video Technology Simplifies Surveying

Geospan's patented surveying video technology implements multiple cameras at close range to collect the massive amounts of visual geographic information needed to make computer-aided mass surveying (CAMS) possible. Geovista CAMS databases give utility professionals the capability to meet their planning, design, construction or maintenance responsibilities from their desktop PC.

A Geovista database includes: X, Y, Z coordinates for towers, pipeline markers, insulators, substations, right-of-way borders, wetlands, danger trees, lines and any other geography of high value. The Geocopter captures the data with views from four or more zoom and wide-angle cameras. The Geocopter is equipped with a laser scanning device that creates a ground and infrastructure profile that measures line to ground clearance.

Pre-construction surveys for new pipeline and power transmission corridors can be done passively without disturbing neighborhoods. These surveys can then be used to work with regulators to accelerate the permitting process.

Maintenance crews can look at CD-ROM based data to preview work sites, plan logistics and identify right-of-way landowners. Vegetation can be visually inspected and cataloged to identify potential problem areas such as danger trees. Jobs that have depended on having traditional surveyors in the field can now be executed at the desktop with tremendous savings in time and money.

Measuring Wood Pole Strength Wood remains the material of choice for use in poles because of its lighter weight, climbability, dielectric properties and environmental acceptability, according to a paper by Edward Ezer, Ph.D. Eng. with Pole+ Management in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The average life of a wood pole in North America is about 35 years, but many poles in use today are well over that age. Extending the service life of wood structures through non-destructive evaluation (NDE) minimizes costly outages and emergency repairs and improves public and personnel safety. Experience has shown that a good inspection and maintenance program can help increase the life of poles by 20 years, according to Ezer.

Directly measuring the strength of in-service poles with a good NDE technique provides utilities with a pole management program where decisions are driven by reliable and objective data. A database developed with the new NDE instrument Polux can give utilities information about their wood pole infrastructure and the capabilty to identify weak poles in order to make informed decisions on when to replace, retreat or strengthen those poles.

The Polux system of wood pole inspection was developed in Europe by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The six year research and development program leading to this technology was sponsored by Electricite de France, in cooperation with the Swiss Power companies and the Institute.

Polux and its associated analysis software, K-Store, offer a fast, reliable and cost-effective means of testing utilities' wood poles, according to Ezer. The K-Store software is based on Microsoft Excel and tabulates findings in a spreadsheet format.

The Polux inspection device uses two special insulated probes that measure two critical properties of the pole: the quasi-static insertion force and the humidity inside the pole. This double measurement directly correlates to the strength of the wood fibers in the strength bearing outer shell of the pole. Because the penetration resistance in wood is affected by the humidity of the wood fibers, measurement of both hardness and humidity simultaneously enable Polux to distinguish between good wood, which is humid and hard to penetrate, and rotten wood, which is also humid but offers little or no resistance to probe penetration.

In addition to the measurements of hardness and humidity, the Polux inspection system also integrates information on pole age, species, knots, pole height and circumference in its calculation of the remaining pole strength.

Virginia Transformer Expands Its Line of Liquid-Filled Transformers Virginia Transformer Corp. (VTC), Roanoke, Virginia, U.S., has expanded its liquid-filled transformer range to 50 MVA, 138-kV class. This year, VTC's facility in Chihuahua, Mexico has expanded to 60,000 sq ft to allow the manufacture of liquid-filled transformers. VTC supplied 138-kV class units to General Electric Co. in the United States and to electric utility projects in Puerto Rico. The company pre-engineers these large units which are partially manufactured by trading partners in the U.S. and abroad. VTC monitors, supervises and approves all design and manufacturing processes, completes final bushing, accessory and control wiring assembly as well as provides on-site oil filling and commissioning.

Commercialization of Fuel Cells Plug Power has completed the demonstration of a natural gas-based proton exchange membrane fuel cell system. The residential-sized system-which includes a fuel cell stack, power conditioner and a Johnson Matthey fuel processor-produced more than 4 kW of electricity at the company's upstate New York development facility. The operation of a complete system on natural gas is an important step toward bringing Plug Power's residential units to market in 2001. The natural gas breakthrough means that the more than 70 million homes that already use natural gas for heating and cooking in the United States alone will eventually be able to use natural gas-powered fuel cells to meet all their energy needs.

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