Everything is big in Texas, including Navasota Valley Electric Cooperative’s nine county service territory in the central part of the state—which uses 5,556 miles of overhead transmission line and 126 miles of underground line. Now, in an effort to upgrade its decades-old infrastructure, as well as to increase reliability and provide usage information to its 13,000 members, NVEC is conducting a three-month advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) pilot program.
While smart metering rollouts are well underway in many utilities, advanced services, such as on-demand reads, home area networking (HAN), demand response and consumer portals are driving the migration to fixed-base, radio frequency advanced metering—a paradigm shift from traditional drive or walk-by systems.
The electric cooperative has chosen to install the FlexNet utility communications network (see video), as well as iCon A electric meters and two base stations from Raleigh, North Carolina-based smart grid specialist Sensus —and eventually, plans to replace all of its more than 18,000 meters with next-generation technology.
The FlexNet system is a long-range radio solution that communicates via primary-use FCC (News - Alert)-licensed spectrum. It serves as a dedicated and secure two-way communications highway that transmits at two watts of power to enable wide-area coverage that reaches all points in a utility’s service area, without the need for additional or hybrid networks.
The system supports true end-to-end Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) communications across all platforms—electric, gas, water and lighting control. IPv6 compatibility transforms the system from a single-application AMI network to a truly interoperable smart grid infrastructure, enabling industry standard addressing to be used between all endpoints and applications.
What’s more, the Sensus FlexNet utility network will facilitate future outage management capabilities with NVEC's system from Abilene, Texas-based Milfsoft Utility Solutions and will seamlessly integrate with the cooperative's existing customer information system from Daffron & Associates of Bowling Green, Missouri.
"We chose to implement the Sensus FlexNet system at the recommendation of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC (News - Alert))," said NVEC's Kayla Sanders of Member Services. "Their recommendation, along with that of comparable cooperatives in the area, assured us that the licensed spectrum and point-to-multipoint network would be ideal for reaching our rural members."
Sanders noted that NVEC’s current power line carrier (PLC) system no longer represented the best option for its members and that the Sensus technology offered reliability along with system versatility.
Edited by Jamie Epstein