Like Google Earth, Below Ground

The power grid isn’t just above the ground. Much of the power transmission grid lies in a hard-to-navigate subterranean world. Mark Smith, CEO of Geospatial Corporation, believes the answer lies in a Google Earth-like application that maps the world below the ground’s surface.

Using a probe that travels through pipes, Geospatial creates three-dimensional web-based underground conduit maps that could be instrumental in creating the new smart grid. “In major cities, lack of accurate conduit location data is a majorimpediment to management and rehabilitation of deteriorated underground electric utility lines,” Smith says. Just distinguishing which conduits are which is challenging. Oil, gas, electrical, water and fiber-optic networks run side by side below ground.”Not knowing the exact location of a line can spell big trouble when the backhoes move in. A few feet in the wrong direction, and a vital utility or flammable gas line can be severed,” Smith says.As smart grid infrastructure construction moves forward, underground mapping is catching on. Geospatial has already mapped projects for the electrical industries in Boston and Charleston, South Carolina, allowing them to find new conduits for cables—even under water.