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Detecting Heat Just Got Cheap

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Low-Cost Infrared Cameras Open Up Diverse Inspection Opportunities in Power Sector

Talk about a bargain. Technological advances have driven down costs of infrared cameras from as much as $2,000 five years ago to about $200 today for comparable performance. EPRI field tests indicate that the low-cost cameras are ready for new and diverse inspection applications for power generation, transmission, and distribution.

EPRI’s research points to a warm welcome for infrared cameras in these and other uses:

  • Overheating and aging: Degraded and aging components, such as motors, bearings, and some electrical equipment, tend to emit more heat.
  • Defects: A wide range of them can be located and scoped in size in seconds—a hundred times faster than some traditional inspection approaches.
  • Solar: Detecting hot and cool spots in solar modules due to manufacturing defects, cracked glass, soiling, and other problems that may otherwise be undetectable.
  • Substations: Using cameras with data-processing algorithms for automated, continuous monitoring of substation equipment to detect impending failures before outages occur.

Other promising applications include difficult-to-reach components of hydroelectric plants, wind turbines, and transmission lines. Because infrared imaging does not require contact with surfaces, inspections can be performed from the ground or platforms, reducing workers’ exposure to potential hazards.

Artwork by Kirk Anderson


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