Electric cooperatives generally serve rural and suburban communities where vegetation management presents a more serious problem relative to urban environments. Their longer, geographically dispersed distribution network further contributes to this problem. Being member-owned, electric cooperatives have to deal with higher VM costs, budgetary constraints, and customer relationships in an increasingly competitive business environment.
TreeAM presents a practical, cost-effective solution to their needs. A starter system can include just one or few of the TreeAM modules. Examples include better visibility and control over contractor costs, and improved planning and tracking of routine line clearance or herbicide treatment activities. Additional data sets and functionality can be added over time.
A large electric co-op wanted to improve upon its existing cyclic vegetation management program and the budgeting process. Most of the work was being done using paper forms and maps, Excel, and email. The new approach involved a mix of Reactive, Proactive, and Predictive maintenance strategies, with increasing use of data and analytics for each subsequent strategy.
The maintenance strategies will be implemented through some combination of mechanical, chemical, cultural, and other types of vegetation management (VM) programs. The optimal mix of these strategies and VM programs across different parts of the network are expected to change over time, depending on the prevailing technologies, regulations, environmental factors, operational requirements, and other factors.
The co-op adopted Tree Asset Manager (TreeAM) to help facilitate its evolution to smarter VM. TreeAM is initially being used for offline field data collection to support its existing line clearance programs by circuit and by trees, and track contractor costs and hours. The system as delivered also includes other VM programs such as herbicide, tree growth regulators, and the ability to integrate UAV data. All VM programs include functionality for inventorying, planning, scheduling, and tracking work done. Aerial imagery from an in-house UAV program may be integrated into the existing system in the near future.