Grant County PUD is considering some high-tech solutions to prevent power interruptions.

One new tool the utility will begin using are drones. Crews will utilize drones to assist with patrolling power lines and inspecting substations.

Power Delivery Engineer Will Coe, told commissioners the use of drones is a common practice for this type of work among larger utilities.

Infrared cameras on the drones can detect heat and identify spots that show signs of "electricity leakage," and may be prone to potential outages. Drones can also reduce overall inspection time, especially when powerlines are in areas that are more difficult to access.

"I can see this eliminating problems before they even show up," Commissioner Nelson Cox said.

Commissioner Tom Flint added, "that's pretty good." When referring to the ability of the infrared cameras to tell you where the hotspots are located on the system.

Commissioners were also updated about additional improvement efforts being used to help reduce the likelihood of poles fires. Efforts include replacing metal "cutouts" on poles with polymer ones, while also more widely utilizing fiberglass cross arms on poles.

Long dry spells during typical summers in the Columbia Basin can lead to an excessive amount of dust and dirt settling on the components of poles. As debris settles on these components a light rain can cause the dirt to become electrically charged, resulting in heat transferring to the wood pole and starting a fire. The new components are expected to help reduce the likelihood of pole fires.

Senior Manager of Power Production Construction and Maintenance, Mike Tongue also told commissioners Grant PUD's tree trimming program is one of the larger successes the department has utilized in helping control system interruptions. The program allows crews, when owner permission has been obtained, to remove trees planted under or near power lines that could impact system reliability. This approach is advantageous compared to just pruning problematic trees every few years, he said.

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