Ergon Energy has signed on to use Google's new Earth Builder product to help it process information into 3D images, helping staff to make the electricity network more efficient.
Google has just announced the new product, aimed at helping businesses process and handle geographic data so that they don't have to do it on their own servers.
"It lets you upload, process and store your geospatial data in our cloud," a post on the Google Enterprise Blog explained. "Your employees can use familiar tools — Google Maps and Google Earth — to easily and securely share and publish mapping data. No technical expertise or GIS training is required."
"Whether you have terabytes of imagery or just a few basemap layers, now you can create multiple map layers from your data, such as shapefiles of demographic data, spreadsheets of worldwide customer locations and files of your recently acquired imagery for a new development," the blog post explained. "You can also integrate the map layers with our own imagery basemap, road data, Google Street View, Terrain View or Directions in order to find your next best store location."
Ergon Energy will load data on the electricity network into Google Earth Builder and will then process that information into spatial layers and make it available in an interactive 3D visualisation to staff.
The data to be uploaded will be collected by aircraft sporting laser scanners and digital cameras, which will fly over the 150,000 kilometres of power lines that make up the entire electricity network. These aircraft are part of the utility's Remote Observation Automated Modelling Economic Simulation (ROAMES) project and are expected to begin flying and collecting data in August this year.
Google Earth builder combined with the ROAMES project will help the utility deal with its enormous network, according to Queensland Minister for Energy Stephen Robertson.
"Ergon Energy is the electricity distributor for 97 per cent of Queensland and its network traverses many sparsely populated areas. It's both challenging and expensive to build, maintain and operate a large geographically dispersed network. The ROAMES project along with Google Earth Builder will enable Ergon staff to improve decision-making and realise operational efficiencies, by delivering to them rich, timely, spatial and precise information about its network in the context of the real-world in which it exists," he said.
The information will first be used to define the scope and schedule for a vegetation management program, according to Ergon Energy chief executive Ian McLeod.
"We estimate through using ROAMES capability we will save $44 million dollars over five years on our vegetation management program alone," he said.
Yet the program wasn't all about cost, according to the executive.
"Future applications of these combined technologies are expected — we aim to be able to use simulations to assist in every area of planning and response, whether for a natural disaster or to forecast growth in particular areas."
Caroline McCarthy contributed to this article.