Amazonia vs. power lines: is there a solution for constant outages in Latin America?In today’s modern society, electricity is the primary and fundamental element – without it, our lives simply stop. However, across the world there are still communities and even whole regions that are lacking power. As of today, South America is amongst the fastest growing regions in terms of electrical power consumption. World Bank predicts the use of electrical power in the region to double from 2010 to 2030, calling for a whopping $430 billion investment. Nevertheless, experts signal that even with all of the money poured into production of electricity, there’s a bigger power which, if not contained properly, will still cut off the light. 

Power outages are a standard in Latin America and in Brazil, Venezuela, as well as numerous other countries – scheduled and performed by the government itself. In 2015, the average number of times per year that South Americans experienced loss of electricity was 12.5. Sounds terrible? Wait until you hear that a typical power cut lasts more than 16 hours. Setting aside the planned outages, main reason for the cuts prevails treacherous terrain of the region, mainly – the Amazon Jungle. 

Let’s say you plant a tree, eucalyptus for example, in your backyard in US and at the same exact time, someone puts another beautiful eucalyptus into the ground in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. According to the scientific data of Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, after a year, your backyard newborn will only start to get taller, while the eucalyptus in the South will have grown into a full-height, flourishing eco-system. In fact, the yield of eucalyptus species is 2.5 times higher in Latin America, averaging close to 25 cubic meters per year. 

“With such growth rate and unpredictable growth paths, power lines within range of the rainforest are in constant risk – vegetation is affected by wind, heavy rain as well as forests’ fauna. Considering that there are over 2.3 million kilometers of power lines in Brazil and Mantas Vaskela, CEO of LaserpasMexico alone, from 10 to 50 million of people lose light once, twice or even more times every single day,” explains the current circumstances Mantas Vaskela, CEO of Laserpas. “This, of course, leads to the demand for increased number of line inspections. Nevertheless, not even the largest utility companies have the manpower to walk along the lines as often as the vegetation in Amazonia threatens the grid.”

Furthermore, even if somehow the resources would allow such surveillance, the job will only cure the current problems around the grid, the power will come on. But for how long? As experts at Laserpas explain, solving the rainforest problem requires a clear look into the future – how and where will the vegetation endanger the infrastructure. 

“If an operator would decide to do constant surveillance flights over the grid using helicopters, he would have a complete view of his assets, however, it would only accelerate the inspection process, still not solving the root problem,” says M. Vaskela. “Nevertheless, if you do the same flights using UAVs equipped with LIDAR sensors and ultra-high-speed cameras – you have quite the different information. Give that data to an experienced software engineer and he will turn it into decision-ready intel – 3D model of your grid with ortohpotos.”

Such model allows companies to reduce vegetation trimming costs up to 40%, plus it eliminates the need for on-ground inspections, as well as gives an insight into how to plan the maintenance of lines. Given all of the aforementioned challenging factors of the Amazonia, it might just be the solution Latin America has been looking for. 

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