Satellite imagery helps PowerGrid to largely avoid forests

Satellite imagery helps PowerGrid to largely avoid forests

State-owned power transmission utility Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd (PGCIL) has started extensively using satellite imaging and the Geographical Information System (GIS) technology to avoid taking its transmission lines through forest cover, because it takes time to get the requisite government permission to do this.

Currently, only 2% of the transmission firm’s lines run through forests, down from 6% eight years ago.

“Our environment and social policy is based on principles of avoidance, minimization and mitigation. We want to minimize any involvement with the forest area because we do not want any delays on account of forest clearance. These type of delays affect the commissioning of our transmission links," said a senior PGCIL executive who did not wish to be identified.

As for forest areas where its lines need to pass, PGCIL has started using specially designed high-rise towers (75m) to reduce the number of trees that need to be cut.

The firm currently owns and operates 61,875km of transmission lines in the country. According?to?PGCIL,?maps?from the Survey of India are not of much use in helping it avoid forested areas because they are not updated. This is where satellite imagery comes in.

“Using satellite imagery also helps in avoiding areas of habitation thereby helping in saving rehabilitation costs. We are willing to increase the links length to do so (avoid inhabited areas). This has led to timely implementation without any rehabilitation and resettlement disputes," the official added.

“PowerGrid has an excellent track record, whether one talks of operations or timelines. GIS technology, remote sensing and satellite mapping have been in extensive use throughout the world, though not heard of much in India. Use of GIS for planning and routing purposes makes great sense for the company.... GIS makes the process cost-efficient and less time consuming," said Abhishek Puri, an analyst with ASK Securities Ltd.

PGCIL plans to use such measures as it prepares to invest Rs55,000 crore in the five years to 2012 as part of the government’s proposed Rs1.4 trillion plan to build a national power transmission grid that will more than double the transmission capacity in the country to 37,150MW by 2012. This will enable the transmission of power from regions where there is a surplus to those where there is a deficit.

According to PGCIL, measures such as using satellite imaging will help it meet deadlines for the completion of transmission networks including those it is building to move (or evacuate as the process is called) power from the so-called ultra mega power projects that are being developed. Each of these plants has the capacity to generate 4,000MW of power and PGCIL will spend around Rs4,000 crore on each of the transmission networks it builds for such plants.

The company ended the fiscal year 2006-07 with revenues of Rs4,082 crore and a net profit of Rs1,088 crore.