Rural electric cooperatives provide power for one in every eight Americans and provide power to businesses and homes in 47 states covering 56% of the nation’s landmass. In these geographically dispersed areas, serving members presents specific requirements and distinctive challenges to utilities.
The distance between homes and business make it more difficult for co-ops to do simple meter reading than urban-based utilities, for example. What’s more, tasks such as identifying the extent of outages is more difficult due to the considerable time it takes to travel across a rural service territory, sometimes over rough terrain.
That’s why choosing the right advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technology to maximize operational efficiencies and reliability from a myriad of options is critical.
This was the situation facing Runestone Electric Association, a Touchstone Energy® Cooperative located in west central Minnesota. With approximately 18,000 meters installed over 2,900 miles with an average of just four meters per mile of line, Runestone serves agricultural, residential, commercial/industrial and seasonal customers.
The utility needed to upgrade its aging AMI system and wanted to leverage advances in software and smart meter technology to achieve greater reliability, responsiveness, and productivity.
Central to the finding the right solution was the process of selecting the right platform for the upgraded AMI network. The numerous available alternatives considered included RF mesh, RF point-to-multipoint, cellular, and power line carrier, as well as power line communication (PLC) solutions.
After a rigorous evaluation process, Runestone selected Aclara’s TWACS® – an acronym for Two-way Automatic Communication System – PLC.
“We selected TWACS PLC because it meets our requirements, the technology is proven and extremely reliable, plus the system provides real-time communication. Upon completing our deployment, we are very pleased with our decision.”
Scott Krueger, Billing/IT Supervisor Runestone
Why power line communication?
A best-in-class, proven platform, Runestone chose TWACS technology for several reasons.
1: It’s ideal for utilities with a large and geographically dispersed customer base because it works over power lines.
2: The technology provides superior reliability, high throughput, and exceptional coverage capabilities, automatically reading daily and interval meter data while monitoring power-line conditions.
3: The system quickly detects outages, tracks restoration status and can deploy demand-response solutions.
4: Advanced AclaraONE® headend software interfaces with its billing system, works with multiple third-party applications, and provides advanced analytics.
Additional benefits to the TWACS system
In the case of Runestone, choosing TWACS enables the company to utilize its existing distribution grid and maintain the communications network with its own staff, thus realizing significant savings. The TWACS system also significantly reduces the time spent reading meters. What formerly required 27 hours to receive a single read from one meter now takes just 30 minutes to read the entire network of 18,000 meters, with a resulting drop in line loss.
In addition to benefitting from savings in money and time, implementation of the tried-and-true Aclara TWACS PLC system reflects Runestone’s technology goal to “evaluate and implement proven, justified energy and information technology” while supporting delivery on its core value of dependability. Take a look at this case study for more information.