North Carolina's Utility Cooperative Invests in Sensus Communication Network Technology

By Madhubanti Rudra January 17, 2012

North Carolina’s Wake Electric has recently announced that it has made additional investments in a smart grid infrastructure project that would benefit its members in a seven-county area surrounding the state’s capital of Raleigh.

Wake Electric Membership Corporation is a nonprofit electric utility serving more than 35,000 members in parts of Franklin, Durham, Granville, Johnston, Vance, Nash, and Wake counties. The utility is implementing a Sensus FlexNet advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system, which operates over a secure, wireless network using licensed spectrum.

Sensus is a leading utility infrastructure company offering smart meters, communication systems, software and services for the electric, gas, and water industries. The Sensus FlexNet system is a secure and robust communications network based on open standards that facilitates interoperability with multiple applications. The installation of Sensus FlexNet system will facilitate two-way, dedicated communication to residential electric meters as well as power distribution assets, according to company officials. The previous system has been in use for over a decade, and the AMI from Sensus would replace this drive-by system.

Being an open standards- based system, Sensus FlexNet will be interoperable with other applications that the utility cooperative plans to incorporate in future.  These future investments may include remote monitoring and control of distribution assets, outage management and pre-paid accounts. More on the card is an efficiency program called “Monitor and Manage,” which will include an online web portal that allows members to see their monthly, daily and hourly usage from meter data that will enable Wake Electric’s members to take measures to reduce electric consumption.

Sensus is going to administer the network’s regional network interface (RNI) software as a hosted service for added system redundancy and security.

The FlexNet solution is also expected to eliminate the risks associated with unsecured public networks, which are susceptible to radio frequency interference from power line carriers and wireless sources, particularly in densely populated areas.

“We have large population centers in Raleigh-Durham and Chapel Hill, very close to airports, the Research Triangle Park hub, universities and government facilities,” Wake Electric Manager of Engineering Don Bowman said. “We felt that going the licensed route gives us the extra measure of security from interference from other systems, as well as greater reliability.”

The National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) assisted Wake Electric in specifying and implementing the FlexNet solution, beginning with a pilot project of 225 meters last July. Full network and meter deployment began in October 2011. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2012.

Last year, Raleigh-based Consert, Inc., a provider of smart grid load management technologies, announced a commercialization agreement with Wake Electric Membership Corp. Under terms of the agreement, Consert provided Wake with the Consert Energy Management Solution, a network of hardware and software that uses wireless two-way communications to engage the participation of Wake Electric's members and improve the efficiency, reliability and safety of electricity delivery and use.

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Madhubanti Rudra is a contributing editor for IoTevolutionworld. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin

IoTevolutionworld Contributor

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