Tuesday, 2 December 2008

ECE goes for a Smart Grid-ready communications system

East Central Energy (ECE) is deploying a Smart Grid-ready communications system linking 36 substations with a 700 MHz licenced wireless broadband communication network from Arcadian Networks made possible through a partnership with the cooperative's wholesale power supplier, Great River Energy of Maple Grove.

ECE, which is a member-owned electric cooperative that serves more than 57,000 homes, farms and businesses in east central Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, has now completed installation of Arcadian at 32 of 36 substations and expects to complete the roll out by the end of the year.

Commenting on the previous arrangement, Linda LaTourelle, the IT Manager overseeing the transition to the Arcadian solution, said with nearly 70,000 PLC equipped meters reporting through substation data concentrators, communications with remote locations was challenging.

Considering that the older dial-up communications were maintenance intensive and needed to support an expensive frame relay network to get information back to headquarters in Braham, Minnesota, with some remote substations simply could not be reached by dial-up (and this required to patch together a non- broadband, mismatched solution), ECE saw the need to upgrade to a unified and modern communications platform to support its plans for additional smart grid applications in the future.

"We liked the idea of a private network and had considered putting in our own wireless system," said LaTourelle. "When we studied the capabilities of the Arcadian system, we saw that it brought the security, privacy, and reliability we wanted along with a strong ongoing return on our investment."

"We are already benefiting from the broadband accessibility to our substation communications throughout the entire territory, and the team is talking about the Smart Grid potential of the network."

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