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Power up your undergrounding projects with field inspection management software

By The Fulcrum Team
May 4, 2023

Undergrounding, the process of relocating overhead utility lines and infrastructure underground, is becoming increasingly popular as cities and utility companies seek to improve the reliability and aesthetics of their electrical systems. 

As undergrounding projects continue to gain momentum, it has become vital for utilities to leverage effective digital technology – including field inspection management (FIM) software – to help streamline the process, ensure accuracy, and maintain detailed records. Join us as we explore the current state of undergrounding, the benefits of using FIM software in undergrounding projects and how it can revolutionize the way utilities approach these tasks. 

The rise of undergrounding  

Current estimates note that at least 18% of US distribution lines are currently buried underground, but this figure is poised to increase.

Several factors drive the growing demand for undergrounding, including reducing the visual impact of overhead lines, improving overall system reliability, and protecting infrastructure from extreme weather events like hurricanes and wildfires. 

Underground transmission now serves nearly all new residential and commercial developments in the US, and major undergrounding projects are underway across the country, including:  

  • Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) plans to underground 10,000 miles of power lines, starting in California in high fire risk areas, at the cost of a projected $15 to $20 billion. 
  • Florida Power & Light (FPL) has been proactively undergrounding power lines in critical areas across Florida since 2018, with a total projected cost upwards of $35 billion.
  • Construction recently started on a $4.5B, 340-mile underground transmission line from Quebec to New York City, which will be able to power over 1,000,000 homes.

As more utilities invest in undergrounding projects, the need for efficient and effective management tools becomes paramount, especially given the massive scale of these projects. For one, it costs anywhere from $297,000 to upwards of $4.5 million per mile to convert underground electric distribution lines from overhead, while new underground distribution construction costs five to ten times more than comparable overhead construction.

The benefits of field inspection management software in undergrounding  projects

The scope and complexity of undergrounding initiatives – which often involve extensive excavation, installation of underground infrastructure, and coordination with multiple stakeholders – demand highly effective and efficient inspection management tools for timely completion, cost reduction, and minimal disruption to communities.

Let’s look at some of the most important ways that FIM software, such as Fulcrum, can revolutionize how utilities approach and manage undergrounding.

  • Optimal underground planning: FIM software helps identify the ideal areas for undergrounding by analyzing data on existing aboveground infrastructure. By collecting and analyzing geospatial (GIS) data on the condition of existing lines, the surrounding environment, and other factors that may influence the feasibility of undergrounding, FIM software allows field teams to make informed decisions about where to focus their efforts – all lending to a more effective use of resources and faster project completion.
  • Efficient task management: With automated workflows and notifications, FIM software streamlines the process of assigning follow-up tasks and managing workflows, ensuring that field teams focus on the critical aspects of the undergrounding project. By providing a cloud-connected, real-time communication and task management platform, inspection software reduces delays and improves overall project efficiency, saving time and money.
  • Accurate record-keeping: Accurate record-keeping is one of the most significant challenges in undergrounding. By providing a single source of truth, FIM software allows all stakeholders to access the same up-to-date and reliable information about the location and condition of buried utilities. With no guesswork as to where everything is buried, FIM software avoids costly errors and delays when addressing future maintenance needs or planning new construction projects.
  • Centralized collaboration: A centralized FIM platform ensures that all contractors, remote teams, subcontractors, and employees have access to the same accurate information. This consistency promotes better decision-making, reduces the potential for errors, and leads to better communication between teams. With improved collaboration, teams can work more effectively to resolve issues and help the project cross the finish line on time and within budget.

Fulcrum’s value for location information for undergrounding

Fulcrum has a unique advantage in providing essential GIS insights to undergrounding contractors and utilities due to its automatic and default location data collection capabilities. Fulcrum not only provides comprehensive location data to facilitate more efficient planning and analysis, but also gives field teams relevant data layers from the GIS platform to do their jobs more effectively. Finally, Fulcrum’s mapping functionality leverages Esri, the gold standard in location intelligence software, enabling the delivery of vital GIS insights for successful underground projects.

The perfect match for undergrounding projects

If there was only one task made for FIM, undergrounding is it. Field inspection management software is ideally suited for managing undergrounding projects. By providing a single source of truth, streamlining task management, and offering powerful visualization tools, FIM software like Fulcrum can revolutionize how electric utilities approach and execute undergrounding projects. With the growing demand for undergrounding and the increasing complexity of these tasks, now is the time to invest in a robust FIM solution that always keeps the lights on. 

To harness the power of FIM software in your undergrounding projects, the Fulcrum team is ready to get you started. Contact us to find out more.