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Neara: Using AI & ML to Help Utility Companies Protect Their Networks from Extreme Weather Events

Image Credits: Neara
By: Headliners News / March 4, 2024

Meet Neara, a startup based in Redfern, New South Wales, Australia, is utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to help utility companies and energy providers better manage and protect their power networks from extreme weather events.

Neara’s platform enables the creation of large-scale models of utility networks and their surroundings, allowing for the assessment of risks associated with various weather-related challenges, such as wildfires, flooding, high winds, and ice/snow buildups. The AI and ML features aim to streamline the analysis of existing infrastructure, replacing manual inspections that can be inefficient, inaccurate, and expensive.

Since their commercial launch in 2019, Neara has raised a total of $45 million AUD (approximately $29.3 million USD) from investors like Square Peg Capital, Skip Capital, and Prosus Ventures. The startup’s platform has already been integrated into the tech stacks of several utilities globally, including Southern California Edison, SA Power Networks, Endeavor Energy in Australia, ESB in Ireland, and Scottish Power.

Neara’s technology allows for the creation of digital models of utility networks, which can be used to simulate the impact of extreme weather on electricity supplies before, during, and after events. This capability enables utilities to enhance the speed of power restoration, ensure the safety of utility teams, and minimize the impact of weather events on the power grid. The platform can predict potential risks, such as outages caused by high winds, wildfires, flooding, and ice/snow buildups, allowing utilities to proactively address and mitigate these challenges.

The AI and ML models implemented by Neara are trained on over one million miles of diverse network territory, leveraging lidar imagery to simulate weather events accurately. The lidar data is captured by utility companies or third-party capture companies, and customers can continuously feed new data into Neara’s platform or gain insights from historical data.

Neara’s work with Southern California Edison involves accurately identifying areas where vegetation is prone to catching fire, using lidar and satellite imagery to simulate contributing factors like windspeed and ambient temperature. The platform aids inspectors in determining survey locations without putting them at risk, ensuring more consistent data.

In another example, Neara partnered with SA Power Networks in Australia after the 2022-2023 River Murray flooding crisis, using lidar data to perform digital flood impact modeling and assess the damage to its network. The platform enabled SA Power Networks to complete a report in 15 minutes, analyzing 21,000 power line spans within the flood area, a process that would have taken months manually. The modeling helped expedite the re-energization of power lines within five days, compared to the originally anticipated three weeks.

Neara plans to continue its machine learning research and development, focusing on extracting more value from existing live and historical data and increasing the number of data sources for modeling. The startup is also working on new features in collaboration with Essential Energy to assess each asset in a network, allowing for a more precise risk/value analysis to reduce the impact of extreme weather events, such as wildfires.

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