Iberdrola subsidiary Avangrid has launched a pilot project to enhance substation inspections through the use of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), in collaboration with Levatas and Boston Dynamics.

The initiative will utilise a mobile robot called Spot, modelled after a dog, to conduct visual and thermal inspections at two substations in Connecticut run by Avangrid’s subsidiary, United Illuminating.

Avangrid CEO Pedro Azagra stated: “We are very proud to once again be among the utility industry pioneers pushing the boundaries of technology. Last year, we announced the establishment of an in-house team to build unique machine-learning models to increase reliability.

“With this pilot project, we are now exploring using AI in another aspect of our business where there is great potential to bring high value to our customers and stakeholders. This type of innovation will help us be more efficient, target our investments and increase reliability for our customers.”

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By GlobalData

The pilot will be conducted at the Singer and East Shore substations and will test AI models created by Levatas.

These models interpret analogue gauges, capture thermal imagery and identify equipment damage.

Spot is equipped with a high optical zoom camera and an infrared thermal camera to assess transformer and breaker phases.

Spot can be fitted with an acoustic sensor to detect and visualise sound irregularities, indicating potential equipment malfunctions.

The robot’s core processor facilitates autonomous navigation and communication capabilities.

At the Singer substation, the focus will be assessing the robot’s speed and precision in reading analogue gauges.

The East Shore substation will serve as a testing ground for the robot’s inspection proficiency regarding transformers, circuit breakers and capacitor banks.

Spot will initially be operated by an on-site controller using a tablet, which allows for manual driving and setting up autonomous missions.

Avangrid is also exploring software solutions to enable remote operation of the robot in future applications.

Levatas CEO Chris Nielsen stated: “Levatas is thrilled to be part of the effort deploying AI-enabled Spot robots within Avangrid substations as we automate inspections to increase grid reliability.

“The value being delivered by these solutions is real and it is measurable, which is exciting because we feel that we are just scratching the surface.”

In October 2023, Avangrid and its partner Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners secured $1.2bn (€1.14bn) in tax equity financing for the Vineyard Wind 1 offshore wind farm.

Vineyard Wind 1 is an 806MW project located 15 miles (24km) offshore Martha’s Vineyard in the north-eastern US. It is being built with an investment of $2.3bn.

It will be powered by 62 GE Haliade-X turbines, each with 13MW of power-generating capacity.