22 In 2009, five unique methods were used to inspect vegetation-related conditions along Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) rights-of-way (ROW). Some methods were trials that BPA committed to execute as part of a settlement with its regional regulatory organization, the Western
Electric Coordination Council (WECC), for violations of reliability standards from vegetation grow-in related outages. A combination of simple, stratified, and 100% sampling were used to compare and contrast each inspection technique. A cost-replacement comparison between all inspection techniques
was performed, weighting efficacy of one technique to another in the form of replacement value. Cost-benefit and return-on-investment analyses were also computed. From these analyses, LiDAR proved most effective in identifying vegetation related clearance issues but proved most costly, at
least for initial establishment. The average cost of LiDAR trended downward with subsequent flights. The most cost effective method was using helicopters with either Natural Resource Specialists (NRS) or Transmission Line Maintenance (TLM) personnel serving as aerial observers, but this methodology
proved the most inaccurate. Furthermore, the ancillary utility of LiDAR for related asset assessments more than justify the initial expense, includes power line sag ratings, asset (structures, insulators, roads, etc.) health, and encroachment identification. It is hypothesized that incorporating
LiDAR sampling from 20% of the whole system per year to 40+ % may actually represent a cost-savings when allocating available resources system-wide. This data can also be used for documenting compliance with all federal regulations and requirements, as well as substitute for manual on-the-ground
inspections, whether by BPA staff or third-party contractors.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: December 1, 2011
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