Challenge :: AMI in Challenge, Diverse Environments
The territory served by Laclede Electric Cooperative embraces a range of customer types including urban, suburban, rural, and commercial & industrial areas, and spans diverse topologies from thickly-forested regions to broad stretches of farmland. Laclede sought much more than a basic automated meter reading system. The utility wanted access to up-to-the-second field data such as outage & restoration alerts, power quality events and load profiles to help better manage and quickly resolve issues that directly impacted the 36,000 residential and business customers it serves. Realizing that outstanding service stems from behind the scenes efficiency, the cooperative also wanted technology that could capture granular performance data from meters and other field devices and easily incorporate it into backend business and engineering applications.
Solution :: Clearing the Path to the Smart Grid
When Laclede looked closely at coverage, deployment efficiency, cost per read and other factors, a wireless communications system came out on top. It selected Tantalus because it could blanket the entire 1700 sq. mile Ozark Mountain service area using only seven radio tower sites. This was an advantage over Powerline Carrier (PLC) systems which would have required injection points at each substation, adding to the costs of infrastructure and maintenance as well as increasing the risk of site failure. The two-way Tantalus network supported the full range of Smart Grid functionality demanded by the utility. It also enabled Laclede to prioritize deployment to specific members and/or geographic areas and grow step-by-step to a complete implementation. As a result, Laclede could fast track deployment to high need, high return customers in order to accelerate its return on investment and solve chronic problems quickly and strategically.
Results :: Rapid Deployment Accelerates Results
The 220 MHz RF signal offers excellent radio range and penetration over uneven countryside. TUNet enabled devices automatically associate in the field, eliminating the need for manual programming, which gives the coop deployment ease and flexibility.
TUNet delivers definitive outage and restoration information, which is beneficial for a utility located in Tornado Alley. Laclede can gauge the full extent of an event within seconds – isolated outage or widespread blackout – then prioritize response to critical areas. Tantalus’ "push" technology makes this possible. Rather than polling devices then waiting for the response, TUNet automatically alerts the utility the instant an event occurs.
Because TUNet operates independent of the power system, line crews are not tasked with restoring electricity and re-establishing the PLC communications network simultaneously. TUNet automatically resumes communication so a utility can quickly determine where and when power has been restored, and verify if there are orphaned outages before leaving the area.
Simple and straightforward interface options enable Laclede to easily integrate TUNet data into core business applications. A Web-based interface gives desktop access to information on power quality, current & historic consumption, and status of individual or groups of meters. It gives Laclede the ability to read-in (or read-out) new accounts without a site visit. Using TUNet’s over-the-air programming, staff can also change meter reporting parameters remotely.
The Tantalus network enables Laclede to offer energy management services for C&I metering to a local army base. The utility will provide daily KWh consumption, kVARh, and Peak kW readings in 15-minute intervals, collected from 160 large facilities in support of the military's base modernization plans.