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Lasers to keep the lights on – SP Energy Networks places £36 million Tree Management Contracts


Ahead of the Iberdrola AGM in Bilbao tomorrow (Friday 31st March), it has been announced that SP Energy Networks has concluded nine contracts totalling £36 million to manage trees next to its 44,000km power line network in Scotland, Merseyside and North Wales. The three-year contracts will support around 200 jobs in the UK.

The contracts begin immediately, and run through until 2020. The boots and chainsaws on the ground delivered by these contracts are also being supported by lasers in the sky, following a two-year project by SP Energy Networks to develop a unique 3D aerial mapping database of its entire network.

During storms, one of the main causes of power cuts is fallen trees and broken branches colliding with overhead lines.  ScottishPower has deployed fixed wing aircraft using 3D laser scanning technology to create detailed interactive models of its network, precisely highlighting the exact locations of individual trees beside its power lines. This allows the company to keep exact records of trees, plot their growth and plan maintenance.

Guy Jefferson, SP Energy Networks Distribution Director, said: “Managing trees next to power lines is one of the most important maintenance programmes we deliver to keep the lights on. It means that during severe winter storms we can reduce the number of properties affected by power cuts, and reduce the time to reconnect those who do. We will always need people on the ground to carry out the work, and we are pleased that our contracts will support hundreds of jobs in Scotland, the North West of England and North Wales.

“But chainsaws on the ground are now also supplemented by lasers in the sky, and our detailed 3D maps allow us to plot every tree next to our power lines and schedule required maintenance.  Our system also accounts for regional variations, such as the fact that trees in the North of Wales grow on average 2cm more every year than those in the south of Scotland, to make sure we are cutting the right trees at the right time.

“In exceptional storm events we will still see trees coming down and affecting power lines, as we have witnessed in the last few winters. However, because of significant investments in tree management we are seeing up to 25% less fault activity during poor winter weather than we did a decade ago. We aim to improve these figures even further in the coming years.”

The tree maintenance contracts have been awarded to:

Amey Utility Services LimitedMid Wales & Shropshire
O'Connor Utilities LimitedNorth West England
Glendale Grounds Management LimitedNorth West England
K Imrie Tree CareCentral & Southern Scotland 
Scottish Woodlands LimitedCentral & Southern Scotland
Utility Arb Solutions LimitedNorth West England
RSK ADAS LimitedNorth Wales & Merseyside (Survey & Resilience Work)
Man Coed VM LimitedNorth Wales
Professional Tree Surgeons LtdNorth West England


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