Oklahoma Gas & Electric pilot taps AI to accurately analyze, repair equipment failure

Published on August 06, 2021 by Chris Galford

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Through collaboration with TRC Companies and eSmart Systems, Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company (OG&E) announced plans this week for a pilot that will use artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce outages by assessing and repairing distribution pole damage.

“Utilizing cutting-edge technology in the form of AI to inspect our distribution poles makes our electric grid smarter, improves our business processes and helps to keep the lights on for our customers,” Zac Gladhill, director of Grid Integration and Innovation for OG&E, said. “We anticipate this technology will reduce the amount of time our engineers spend sifting through photographs of poles and “triaging” potential damage. We currently anticipate applying the technology to identify additional uses in our transmission and distribution network if the pilot meets performance objectives.”

Essentially, the AI offers a powerful image recognition capability that it shares with engineers. By reviewing potential damage to distribution poles with computer accuracy, it could save engineers time by reducing the manual effort required for image review, and provide greater accuracy in the process as well. This could in turn reduce outages caused by equipment failure, strengthening stability at large.

eSmart is the creator of the technology to be used for the pilot, including the Collaborative AI. Gladhill said OG&E has been excited to work with the company since hearing of it from Energy Impact Partners. However, program management will be run by consulting firm TRC.

“We are excited to be partnering with OG&E and TRC to develop a solution that will help to improve the inspection process, increase efficiency, and improve safety,” said Knut Johansen, CEO of eSmart Systems.

The pilot will initially focus on woodpecker damage, given the danger they pose to wooden distribution poles in relatively short periods of time. It will give the partners a better idea of how the new AI can chart deterioration and allow OG&E to respond. The potential offered by this technology could aid OG&E’s larger Grid Enhancement Plan, which seeks to replace and upgrade equipment, and to install new technology and communications systems over the years to come.