Project Progress - Ongoing
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Survey to proactively manage defects 

We’ve been taking to the skies to get a bird’s eye view of our lines and poles to help keep the power on for you.

During 2020-21, we’ve used pole top photography and LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology on board helicopters to survey 16,833km of overhead lines and 32,068 pole tops across our electricity network.

We contracted Aethon Aerial Solutions, partnered with Neara, to capture and process this data. It followed a similar survey completed in Whanganui during 2018-19, Maintenance Engineering Manager Carl de Haan says.

“With LiDAR, a sensor on the bottom of the helicopter fires lasers towards the ground and measures how long it takes for them to bounce back up to the sensor. This enables our contractor to render a 3D model of our network, including a snapshot of all the vegetation that likes to grow into our lines and potentially cause disruptions to power supply.”

High resolution digital photographs are then taken of the rural overhead lines, poles and associated crossarms and hardware, such as insulators. The photos are checked to identify defects on that equipment.

“This is a more efficient way to monitor the condition of our assets so that we can be more effective with our maintenance and renewal plans. We can identify potential issues and resolve them before they cause harm or an outage,” Carl de Haan says. 

These condition assessments feed into our Asset Health Criticality Framework, where they’re assessed for asset health, possibility of failure and risk. We then use this information to decide which assets we need to repair or replace.

Between November 2020 and February 2021:

  • We surveyed 16,833km of overhead lines and 32,068 rural poles
  • Covering rural Coromandel, Masterton, Wairarapa, Taranaki, western Bay of Plenty and South Waikato
  • Each pole was photographed at least six times
  • Inspection revealed 160 previously unknown high-risk network defects that could be addressed. These have now been fixed.

Keeping you informed

We were conscious the helicopters might disturb animals or events our customers had planned, so we advertised the LiDAR and Pole Top Photography project via social, digital and traditional media.

The Facebook and digital news advertisements saw more than 3200 new people visit Powerco’s website to read more information about the project. Once there, customers could register concerns through an online form (78 customers with concerns mostly about livestock contacted us through this method), so our Customer Experience Team could contact them to help work through any issues or concerns.

“There was one customer in Wairarapa who was lambing the week we were to be flying over his property. While he was supportive of the work, he was understandably concerned how it would affect his animals,” Carl de Haan says.

“To help, we rearranged the flight schedule to avoid his property until after lambing.

“There were other properties we chose not to fly over and survey altogether, when a customer’s concerns could not be allayed.”

Coming up next

This summer, 2021-22, we’ll continue to survey and photograph our electricity network from the air. Up to 40,000 rural poles are to be photographed throughout the network, with customers again being given the opportunity to get in touch with us.

Milestones

2019

Whanganui was chosen for a LiDAR technology trial because of its varied landscape. It’s historical vegetation management practices, storm damage, and the age of its network assets, combined for an interesting scenario.

  • We surveyed 33,191 rural poles
  • Each pole was photographed 12 times from different angles
  • Inspection revealed 37 previously unknown high-risk network defects that could be addressed – an excellent result 

Summer 2020-21

LiDAR and Pole Top Photography used to survey and document 16,833km of electricity network in Coromandel, Masterton, Wairarapa, Taranaki, Whanganui, western Bay of Plenty and south Waikato.

Summer 2021-22

Pole Top Photography survey of approximately 40,000 poles across the network. Planning work is underway with further details being made available closer to the time

Milestones

Construct new substation building

The first part of the South Waikato Grid Connection project is to replace the building - which doesn’t meet earthquake resilience standards - and upgrade the equipment at the Putaruru substation.

Route for new circuit between Arapuni and Putaruru confirmed

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Planned power cut during this period

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Construction of the circuit and new transformer at Putaruru substation

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2020
2020
June 2020
July 2020

UPDATES

Find out the latest updates about this project

FAQ

We strive to minimise impact in the design and placement of network infrastructure and we’re still planning and consulting on the route for the new circuit. The circuit will be a mix of overhead lines – which you will see, and underground cable – which you won’t see. You’ll also see a new building at our Putaruru substation, replacing the ageing existing building there.

We can never guarantee supply 100% of the time, however, the number and length of outages you experience will be reduced.  

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2020

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