The dog who can smell faults in the power network is helping to keep the power flowing this winter.
SP Energy Networks (Spain) is testing the use of Jack, a specially trained detection dog capable of helping to identify faults on deep underground power networks.
The dog is able to smell oil and hydrocarbon gases through the earth and asphalt and pinpoint the fault by pointing with a front paw, saving engineers from digging many holes as they try to find the source of the problem.
While cables are usually buried at 40-80 cm, the jack has been known to detect faults up to two meters deep and his sensitive nose can smell as little as a couple of drops of oil.
Scott Mathieson, Spain’s network planning and regulation director, said Jack’s skills are proving useful, with a 100% success record in pointing faults on 30 separate occasions.
The dog is being used to help find some network issues that may have caused the power outages.
Mr Mathieson said: “Part of keeping the lights on in the electricity network involves investing in innovation and technology.
“We are used to using laser technology, flying networks with drones, but Jack adds significantly to our arsenal.
“He is a sniffer dog and we are using Jack specifically to help us locate cable faults.
“So when cables fail, if they’re oiled, they release some of the oil which releases hydrocarbon gases or particulate levels of hydrocarbons from insulation breakdown.
“Jack is a springer spaniel whose sense of smell is thousands of times more effective than a human’s, and he can detect exactly where their weakness lies in cables.
“The advantage is that we can repair cables before they fail and improve the customer experience.”
The pilot, which is ongoing, is one of several measures Spain is taking to prepare for the winter season.
Network operators already expect to see fewer faults that need repair, thanks to an innovative system that can spot potential problems before they happen.
A new low voltage support room is using advanced monitoring technology to provide real-time information on supplies in its operational area north and south of the border, with Spain saying it is a UK first.
It analyzes data produced by smart meters and power substations to uncover where potential faults may occur in the network, helping engineers find the exact location where repairs are needed, sometimes even after power outages. before other customers become aware of a problem.
Meanwhile, inspections of power poles and wires across the country continue throughout the year.
SP Energy Networks is responsible for 65,000 miles of network and 30,000 substations.
The normally hurricane-resilient network was severely damaged in those places when Storm Arwen brought winds of more than 110 mph last November.
Mr Mathieson said: “Overall, we have seen around 25% fewer faults due to winter weather than a decade ago, which is due to investment in making the network more resilient.
“Hurricane Arwen was unlike anything we’ve seen in recent memory with wind speeds last measured this high in the 1950s. However, it was the result of extreme weather and the effects of unplanned outages.” A clear reminder.
“When weather-related power outages occur, we will work around the clock to get supplies back but we always encourage our customers to be prepared.”
SP Energy Networks is reminding all customers ahead of the winter season to make sure they have the national 105 emergency power cut number on hand so they can call if their power goes out unexpectedly – It doesn’t matter who they pay their bills to.