What happens when the public assets you want to track don’t have an established GIS data model? When Loveland Water and Power brought a new municipal solar facility online, this was just the problem they faced.
In June 2017, the City of Loveland completed construction on a 19-acre, 3.5-megawatt solar plant and neighboring substation. The solar facility was the first of its kind in Loveland, built to replace a hydroelectric plant that suffered severe flood damage in 2013.
“FEMA allowed us to use disaster funding to build an in-kind replacement for the hydroelectric facility using another renewable energy type,” said Christine Schraeder, electrical engineer at Loveland Water and Power. “We had the opportunity to build something better, with more production capacity. The city determined that a solar facility offered the best solution.”
However, the new solar facility faced a unique challenge. Due to its proximity to a city park, stray golf balls were striking the new solar panels. The city needed an efficient and cost-effective way to track the resulting damage and plan ongoing maintenance.
Since the city uses Cityworks in practically every facet of asset management across multiple departments, adding the solar plant was an easy decision. The team at Loveland Water and Power set to work researching solar facility asset data models—contacting Esri, Colorado State University, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The city found an abundance of pre-construction schemas for solar site selection projects, but finding an asset-driven maintenance schema proved nearly impossible.
So, the team embarked on a three-month project to create our own asset model from scratch. The city used ArcGIS Pro to geoprocess CAD designs into Esri features and conflate them with city-owned aerial photography. The team also used good old-fashioned “boots on the ground” data collection.
When the completed data model was deployed to our enterprise SQL Server, Loveland Water and Power could account for each asset in the facility—from combiner boxes and tracker motors to inverters and transformers. The utility application services division already uses the database to ensure the facility landscape is maintained and the photovoltaic panels are cleaned and functioning properly. In the future, Loveland Water and Power will use the data model to guarantee regular scheduling of parts replacement for tracker motors, drive shafts, and temperature sensors.
“The solar field has ongoing maintenance needs, just like all components of an electrical grid,” said Sterling Overturf, business analyst at Loveland Water and Power. “Once the solar field is fully supported for inspections and maintenance, we’ll be able to work toward greater efficiencies in the field and back office.”
For the next phase of the project, the team is currently tailoring Cityworks inspection templates to guide an employee through the solar field. Photos and field notes will be captured in the inspection and, if issues are identified, a work order can be created to address the issue. The team is also working with operational subject matter experts to configure work order templates for specific maintenance needs. Eventually, the city plans to implement Cityworks mobile native apps to support field personnel.
“As we begin tracking historical data, we can better understand each job and its associated cost,” said Overtuf. “This helps us better manage our equipment and staff time, and it will lead to better management of the facility overall.”
By Ryan Smith, senior GIS specialist, Loveland Water and Power