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Behind the Scenes With Richard Koch of FirstEnergy

March 5, 2020
The geographic information specialist is using 3D technology to enhance the utility's electric service reliability.

FirstEnergy’s Richard Koch often travels across the company’s six-state footprint with a compact 3D imaging scanner, gathering information to create precise and accurate models of substations and transmission equipment.

Donning his safety equipment, Koch mounts his Leica laser scanner on a tripod, puts up markers throughout the area he is surveying, and sets the machine to work. Within seconds, his device captures millions of data points, structured as “point clouds,” which software can render into 3D designs of the space with inventory of substation components and exact dimensions of the equipment.

The models have proven to be helpful when severe weather damages equipment and causes power outages. That’s because utility workers can refer to the 3D models on their computers anytime, anywhere to review data needed to make the repairs quickly and safely.

“The 3D models allow utility personnel to take true measurements and analyze the equipment from their computers, without sending someone in the field,” said Koch, a geographic information specialist. “The final product is a full digital recreation of incredible detail and resolution.”

Manual inspections and measurements of electrical equipment dimensions could take days, even weeks, to complete. The substation also would need to be deenergized if employees performed the work, which would likely require a scheduled power outage for customers served by that circuit.

“This technology provides a quicker and safer way for our electric companies to gather information necessary to enhance service reliability and maintain accurate records of our equipment,” he said, noting there is no impact to customer service when he uses the device in the field.

The models also provide the company with an opportunity to protect animals and prevent outages without creating additional labor-intensive work for employees.

“We can order animal deterrents for our electrical equipment by simply reviewing the specifications and measurements recorded in our 3D models,” said Koch, who believes this technology is a testament to the company’s emphasis on keeping its employees, communities and the environment safe.

He partnered with FirstEnergy’s transmission maintenance team and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to create a model that measured the exact distance between the top of a transmission line and the Route 8 bridge in Akron, Ohio. This work ensured there was enough clearance for the ODOT contractors to safely complete the bridge replacement work that is being planned.

Koch said the company has just begun to scratch the surface of this 3D technology, and he looks forward to working across all areas of the company to see how this device can provide safe, effective and unique opportunities to strengthen the power system.

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