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Many of our professionals are leaders in the electric transmission business. This was seen recently when we put two 21st Century twists on the 19th Century breakthrough called electricity. A new transmission line siting process and an improved design for 500-kilovolt lines are just two advances our employees introduced to the electric industry.
This siting model, developed with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), is one of the most sophisticated tools available for evaluating where to locate new power lines. It is the first of its kind to generate separate suitability maps for natural, man-made and engineering conditions. It also demonstrates how external parties can help rank geographic features, such as wetlands and building density. This award-winning model has been adopted by other utilities.
When the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) recommended in 2010 that utilities establish a plan to evaluate their transmission facilities' ability to function adequately under various conditions, Georgia Transmission was already in the midst of assessing our more than 3,000 miles of lines statewide. We adopted the use of light detection and ranging technology (LiDAR) - which had long been used by the military - to create an accurate map of our state's transmission facilities. Using an aircraft-mounted sensor, we were able to aerially survey our lines with the LiDAR laser technology, which reflects objects and maps the physical properties of the lines and surrounding land.
Georgia Transmission has created, tested and fielded an industry-leading new design for 500-kilovolt power lines known as Delta. Compared with earlier designs, it improves access for live-line maintenance, reduces bird contamination of insulators and creates a narrower footprint. Instead of employing the horizontal configuration used commonly for many decades, we started from scratch and evaluated a wide range of potential designs. Developed in cooperation with Georgia Power and Southern Company, the new look will be used on more than 200 miles of lines in Georgia. The design was first used on our 39-mile Thomson-to-Warthen Line, completed in 2009.
Our $26 million Static VAR Compensator (SVC) built in 2008 in Barrow County protects against blackouts in northern Georgia. The state-of-the-art SVC prevents widespread outages by detecting and correcting voltage problems that can occur when bulk power is transmitted over wide areas where power generation is sparse.
Georgia Transmission is one of the first utilities in the nation to routinely use X-rays to inspect its newly completed power lines. After transmission lines are built, the joints where two sections of power line are spliced together are inspected. Wire is delivered on spools, with each containing enough wire for several spans of the power line. Since completed splices cannot be seen through sleeves, X-rays confirm the integrity of the splices.
Installing remote-controlled, motor-operated switches and communications equipment at hundreds of substations improves our ability to detect, prevent and repair outages throughout the state. We also get a high level of return from lightning arrestors. Arrestors, curved wires arching between electric cables and poles, protect equipment in the event of lightning strikes. Lightning is the leading cause of momentary outages on our system, and our research shows that arrestors prevent 99 percent of lightning-related outages. We are retrofitting most of our existing lines and new lines are built with arrestors.