“DRONES IN ITALY HELP TO PERFORM O&M OPERATIONS FOR CITY UTILITIES”
Enel Green Power is now learning how to fly. In order to increase the efficiency and competitiveness of its plants, EGP is constantly testing technological innovations as they appear in the energy market, and not only there. Besides the storage systems that it has integrated into solar fields and wind farms, or the machines used for marine energy –to mention only two of the latest experiments launched over the last few years – EGP has also introduced drones that fly over dams and plants to its portfolio of cutting-edge solutions, to perform maintenance and monitoring activities, thus helping to increase operational efficiency, reduce costs and simplify Operation & Maintenance(O&M)of renewables.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are used by EGP, for instance, on its Deruta 1 and 2 solar PV fields (Perugia, Italy). These drones, equipped with high-resolution cameras and infrared thermo-graphic instruments, perform panel diagnostic activities in the sky that were previously carried out on the ground. These ‘flying eyes’ make it possible to speed up O&M activities while reducing costs and risks for the safety of personnel that would otherwise have to reach sometimes dangerous high-altitude areas. At Deruta, for example, the drones have scoured the approximately 10,000 panels installed over a surface of four hectares in less than an hour, avoiding the need – especially in the case of plant number 2 – for EGP’s staff to physically reach the panels installed on greenhouse roofs at an altitude of two and a half metres from the ground.
The experimentation involving drones also concerns hydropower plants, as at the Barrea Lake (Abruzzo, Italy) where, by using UASs for an aerial inspection, EGP has been able to provide firemen with precise data that have enabled them to identify the areas of the reservoir that guarantee safe water supply for planes used to put out fires, while also checking the state of conservation of the slopes, thus improving the movement of the shores. Like at Deruta, also at Barrea O&M operations greatly benefited from the use of drones, combining rapidity, effectiveness, increased safety for EGP technicians and reduced costs.