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A Midwestern utility is going to use AI to digitize its power transmission system

Norway-based eSmart Systems, which provides AI-powered solutions for the inspection and maintenance of critical infrastructure, will work with Topeka, Kansas-headquartered Evergy, an electric company that serves more than 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri, to digitize Evergy’s power transmission system. 

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AI and power transmission

eSmart Systems, which also works with Minneapolis-headquartered Xcel Energy and an unnamed “major public utility in the Southeast,” as well as many non-US utilities, will act as project management lead alongside engineering consultants EDM International, and GeoDigital, which will provide large-scale data acquisition and high-resolution image processing.

The three-and-a-half-year-long project will boost the reliability and resiliency of 9,000 miles of Evergy’s power transmission system by creating a digital inventory of its assets, accelerating image analysis capabilities, and improving inspection accuracy by using virtual inspections and AI.

This is all expected to result in a significant reduction of costs for inspections, maintenance, and repairs.

eSmart Systems will use Grid Vision, which, as the company explains on its website, “tracks the performance of ongoing inspection work, provides instant insight of the location and severity of verified high-priority defects, and provides utility managers and analysts a deep and flexible framework for further asset intelligence.”

Riad Habib, senior vice president of energy and industry at Bureau Veritas North America, a global testing, inspection, and certification company headquartered in France, said about the use of AI for power transmission systems to Electrek:

We continue to see the need for a dynamic energy infrastructure to account for more efficient, safe, and reliable operations. 

AI and machine learning have been critical aspects to integrate into our high voltage transmission lines, supporting operators and improving reliability to the end users. AI also plays an important role in the shift of generation sources feeding our electric infrastructure, allowing for better balancing of the grid covering variable (solar, wind) sources as well as more fixed (hydro, nuclear) sources.

Electrek’s Take

This is a very smart move on Evergy’s part. Extreme weather will become increasingly challenging for grid operators, and more electric cars will be used as renewable systems will be added to electric grids, so utilities must optimize their systems.

As Argonne National Laboratory, which is conducting AI grid studies with funding from the US Department of Energy, pointed out in a 2019 article titled, “Artificial intelligence can make the US electric grid smarter”:

In a region with 1,000 electric power assets, such as generators and transformers, an outage of just three assets can produce nearly a billion scenarios of potential failure. Which of those possibilities will merit the most attention?

AI is going to help pinpoint problems and allow utilities to resolve them quickly. Now if Evergy could just up its game when it comes to shuttering coal plants and adopting renewables at a faster pace, it’d be in good shape.

Read more: Kansas is a US wind power leader, but a senator wants to destroy that with a new bill

Photo: Evergy

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.