The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that electricity transmission and distribution (T&D) losses equaled about 5% of the electricity transmitted and distributed in the United States in 2016 through 2020.
Fun fact: Transmission and distribution losses tend to be lower in rural states like Wyoming and North Dakota. Why? Less densely populated states have more high-voltage, low-loss transmission lines and fewer lower-voltage, high-loss distribution lines.
One strategy that is becoming more common to analyze inefficiencies is infrared inspections of the power grid.
Most utility companies use infrared on a regular basis as part of a regimented maintenance program.
Some contract out their infrared inspection needs to infrared consultants.
Infrared inspection for transmission and distribution jobs
Grid engineers are working on technologies like superconducting materials that could essentially reduce electricity transmission and distribution losses to zero. But for now, the cost of these technologies is much higher than the money lost by utility companies through their existing hot, leaky power lines.
The transmission and distribution sector offers infrared inspection of overhead power line equipment ranging from lightning arrestors, transformers, breakers, switches, conductor connections, and capacitors. Also available is underground equipment, switchgear enclosures, pad mount transformers, and transformer vaults.
Infrared inspections utilize thermal imaging, which by definition is “the technique of using the heat given off by an object to produce an image of it or to locate it.”
In plain language, it is an advanced method and a non-invasive form of technology that allows whoever is using it to locate patches of higher heat which typically equates to an electrical or conduction issue.