Bentley Systems enters grid structure design with $US700M acquisition

Photo by Robert Metz on Unsplash.

Infrastructure engineering software company, Bentley Systems, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Power Line Systems – a leader in software for the design of overhead electric power transmission lines and their structures. The acquisition from private equity firm TA Associates is valued approximately $US700 million ($962 million).

The combination will substantially complete the reach of Bentley Systems’s comprehensive portfolio for the lifecycle integration of grid infrastructure across electrical transmission, substation, and distribution assets, and communications towers.

The resulting breadth and depth of the company’s software and cloud services for grid integration will uniquely position Bentley Systems to support the modernisation of grid infrastructure for renewable energy sources and storage, mobility electrification, ubiquitous broadband and 5G communications, and environmental resilience and adaptation.

By rare global consensus, power infrastructure is of such pivotal priority that the US’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act commits $US65 billion of incremental funding for it, with Goldman Sachs estimating that $US3 trillion will need to be spent across the world annually for electrification and renewables to fully accomplish the environmental goals being endorsed by assembled political leaders.

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, including HSR Act notification. Upon closing, Power Line Systems will operate within Bentley’s new Grid Integration Group, combining its SPIDA analysis products and fast-growing-startup OpenTower business, with Power Line Systems’ current CEO Otto Lynch reporting to Bentley’s Chief Acceleration Officer Santanu Das.

Power Line Systems was founded by University of Wisconsin professor Dr. Alain Peyrot in 1984, and is headquartered in Madison, WI. Its concentrated focus from the outset has been ever-improving engineering tools for overhead power line structures, earning the supportive confidence of transmission engineers as the industry standard of best practice throughout the US, increasingly across Europe, and opportunistically in Asia.

Power Line Systems’ “PLS” software can advantageously bring transmission-grade sophistication to broader applications in overhead distribution and in the communications grid which—to deliver the more intensive reach of 5G—increasingly includes newly shared towers and poles.

Bentley Systems’ recently developed OpenTower iQ cloud service is generating impactful new business growth by meeting the new demands of communications tower owners for lifecycle digital twins of their existing towers. Tower digital twins leverage UAV-surveyed reality modelling, machine learning, and asset performance modelling to help maximise these assets’ capacity, revenue, safety, and reliability while minimising costs and risks of work on site.

Bentley Systems’ new Grid Integration Group can now expand this opportunity to existing power transmission towers, where reliability, safety, and fitness for purpose are stressed by deterioration, weather extremes, and vegetation encroachment.

Despite not to date having any transmission market offerings, Bentley Systems has been ranked by ARC Advisory Group as leading its broader grouping of Electrical Transmission and Distribution, and Communications within Engineering Design Tools for Plants, Infrastructure, and BIM.

By bringing together Power Line Systems’ products (for transmission) with OpenUtilities Substation and SPIDA (for distribution) and OpenTower (for communications) and OpenUtilities Designer and OpenComms (for network provisioning), Bentley Systems’ grid integration and digital twin offerings will span virtually all physical grid structures, lines, and networks at the same time as these are becoming increasingly shared by utilities for multiple purposes.

“Acquiring Power Line Systems fills a very important gap in our energy grid offerings at this fortuitous juncture when grid upgrades, resilience, and integration combine to drive one of the most urgent and sustained growth opportunities we’ve ever seen,” Bentley’s CEO Greg Bentley said.

“Our global go-to-market resources can now be deployed to take full advantage of burgeoning market demand—a consequence of the momentum driving incremental renewable energy sources and ubiquitous electrification—for going digital in transmission, and integrated grid engineering,” he added.

Otto Lynch, chief executive officer of Power Line Systems, appreciated the integration.

“We are enthused to be joining the like-minded Grid Integration Group within Bentley Systems to enlarge our collective contributions further across the broader grid, further across the infrastructure lifecycle, and further across the world. The community of transmission engineers for whom Power Line Systems has been the go-to software provider will also gain from our expanding scope and reach,” he said.

Bentley Systems expects the Power Line Systems business to be able to contribute to approximately $US30 million ($41.2 million) in subscription revenue in 2022.

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