When road surface temperatures are forecast to drop to between 0°C to +1°C (marginal temperatures), decision makers face the difficult task of balancing road safety and operational efficiency of the network. If there is any doubt as to whether ice will form, the gritting machines inevitably go out, often several times a day, depositing varying amounts of de-icing agents on the roads.
Treating roads too late can lead to accidents and congestion, but unnecessary treatment of roads can result in high additional costs due to wasted de-icing agents and labour costs. In addition to cost, unnecessary treatment of roads leads to additional environmental damage to our ecosystems and road infrastructure. Weather stations detect the actual weather and road conditions in real time, returning the data to the forecasters and decision makers accordingly. A reliable power source is required to ensure the efficient operation of this technology. Whilst electrical power is normally available in built up conurbations, it often isn’t readily available in more rural areas. This was an issue faced by Blackburn with Darwen and their weather station location requirements. To install a dedicated conventional power supply to a remote location is often impractical and cost prohibitive. Whilst there was an existing weather station in place in the borough, it was poorly located and needed significant investment to maintain. Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council required a cost neutral, environmentally sustainable solution that would allow them to make an informed decision around the treatment of the roads when marginal temperatures were forecast.
The Rennicks OGPS is a hybrid wind and solar powered unit with a built-in rechargeable energy source. The independent power platform can be used to power multiple critical infrastructure items such as CCTV cameras, ANPR systems, air quality monitors and weather stations. Rennicks worked with Dwayne’s team and the weather data providers Vaisala Ltd, to install two brand new weather stations within the borough. The weather stations will improve the forecasting model thanks to the increased data provided. Also powered by, and installed onto the OGPS units as the weather stations, are two CCTV cameras. The cameras provide still images every 10 minutes, giving the council a view of the Blackburn with Darwen network, to assist with decision making at the time of severe weather. One station was installed on the A6119 at Yew Tree Drive in Blackburn, and one at the A666 at Bull Hill in Darwen. Rennicks completed pre-assembly of the OGPS at our distribution facility in Cheshire, with the Vaisala equipment installed at the same time. This minimised disruption to road users during the final installation on site. Each installation took 5 hours to complete at site and accurate, real-time data was soon being fed back to the forecasters and decision makers at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.
By receiving accurate, realtime information about the road conditions in the borough, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council will make significant savings in unnecessary deicing treatments in years to come – with savings being ploughed back into other road improvement schemes.
In this case, the predicted annual savings, far outweighed the installation cost of the equiment. OGPS technology enables critical network infrastructure to be installed in areas and locations where in the past, it would have proven extremely difficult and costly to get the required power through to run the equipment.