'The technology is just fantastic': We Energies crews will use acoustic cameras to prevent power outages this summer

NOW: ’The technology is just fantastic’: We Energies crews will use acoustic cameras to prevent power outages this summer

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – As we approach summer storm season, We Energies is adding to their toolbox, hoping to stop electrical outages before they happen.

We Energies crews are taking advantage of new technology, with a device called an acoustic camera.

"These are incredible tools and have saved a lot of outage minutes for our customers. The technology is just fantastic," said Mary Koutnik, the senior application engineer for We Energies.

It uses more than 120 miniature microphones to detect abnormal sounds in electrical equipment, such as switch fuse units, and can pinpoint where they're coming from.

"This piece of equipment is supposed to be silent, however when it starts to fail or break down, the equipment inside there starts to break down, it will start buzzing," Koutnik explained.

It's a supplement to infrared cameras - which crews have been using for years - that show heat spots on connections.

Sometimes, sound can signal an issue before heat.

"We can take this camera, look into that piece of equipment, diagnose the problem before it causes an outage," said Dave Megna, the vice president of field operations. "It can allow us to take it down planned, make the repair, so that the customer doesn't even see an outage on it."

Crews hope updating their technology will make utilities more reliable.

"The more we can do proactively, the better off our customers will be," Megna said.

We Energies crews in the Milwaukee area currently have one acoustic camera in use and will be receiving a second one soon.

They plan to test the two cameras out this summer, before implementing them across the board.

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