Co-op eyes benefits including access to voltage data
Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) will deploy AMI from Sensus including Stratus power meters and the FlexNet communication network, Sensus announced yesterday. Using FlexNet, the firm can collect data automatically over a fast, two-way network with point-to-multipoint transmission functionality, it added.
"We're a rural co-op and we have a large service area with a low population density," said SMECO Senior VP of Engineering & Operations and Chief Operating Officer Ken Capps in prepared remarks. "We have high operational costs, from labor expenses to vehicle maintenance, which come with sending technicians to collect meter data, connect and disconnect service and perform other tasks."
With Stratus, the latest electricity meter from Sensus, Capps and his team can meet stringent safety and reliability standards and take advantage of the remote disconnect/reconnect feature to improve operational efficiency, the firm said. The utility's service area features diverse terrain, from trees and shorelines to hills and ravines, which can make the process of collecting data from the mostly rural, sparsely populated area a challenge for some types of AMI systems, it added.
The utility serves over 160,000 customers across 1,150 square miles in southern Maryland. SMECO recognized that upgrading to AMI would provide the opportunity to automate meter data collection and lower its costs but it counted overall dozens of benefits from the technology, the firm said.
"We laid out a business case for the upgrade that identified more than 40 operational benefits including automated meter reading, faster outage response and restoration and more efficient allocation of resources," said Capps. "The anticipated savings far outweighed the cost of the system.
"The Sensus AMI system offered the best communication between end points over our varied terrain and allowed us to automate routine processes," he added. "We will also obtain useful voltage and meter data that will help us address issues before they become problems."
With over 70,000 Stratus meters deployed at SMECO, the utility now enjoys benefits beyond those the team first imagined, Sensus said.
"In the first four weeks, we reduced our truck rolls by more than 1,100," said Capps. "SMECO's business plan identified savings from reduced truck rolls and we were happy to quickly realize operational savings."
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