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15/03/2011: Helicopter patrols to inspect North West's power lines

The region’s overhead electricity network will be getting a full inspection this week – from 70 metres above ground.

Helicopter patrols, arranged by network operator Electricity North West, will use state-of-the-art thermal-imaging equipment to find potential issues on the lines.

Electricity North West owns the power network that provides electricity to homes in the region, from Cumbria to Cheshire, including parts of Merseyside and Derbyshire.

The inspection will focus on the pylons, lines and equipment carrying 132,000 and 33,000 volts – the highest voltage on the network.

The programme will result in around 1,000km of overhead lines being inspected over a two-week period across the whole of the North West.

Tony Clayton, maintenance manager for Electricity North West, said: “This type of inspection is really important for all our customers because it’s a relatively quick way for us to assess our overhead line network and identify potential issues.

“The thermal imaging will give us an idea of where we need to perhaps strengthen the network because it is getting a lot of use, or where there might be something wrong.

“Prevention is better than cure, and this type of work allows us to find and deal with issues before they become an issue for customers.”

A helicopter will fly just above the height of the overhead lines, around 70 metres above ground level at around 50km an hour.

A high-resolution thermal camera, which can detect variations in the temperature of the overhead lines, will record information to be assessed by engineers on the ground.

Tony added: “The thermal camera produces images for us and also estimates the worst-case temperature-rise for each spot. We can then use this information to prioritise maintenance work and reduce disruptions for customers.”

The inspections will begin on Monday 21 March subject to weather. For more information, customers can call Electricity North West on 0800 195 4141. 

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