Bandera Electric Shane Schmidt
Manager of BEC Fiber, Shane Schmidt, works with a contractor to install the fiber optic cable that will upgrade Bandera Electric Cooperative's distribution system to a smart grid. (PRNewsfoto/Bandera Electric Cooperative)

Rural Texas Co-Op Modernizes Electric Grid With Distribution Automation

Bandera Electric Cooperative in Texas has completed its first distribution circuit automation project to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs. Bandera said that this project was its starting point for the smart grid, providing real-time adjustment to changing loads, generation and operating conditions of the system, while integrating renewable energy resources.

The automation is enabled by the fiber optic network installed in Bandera last year. BEC Fiber was installed to improve and support the electrical grid, but has a secondary purpose of providing high-speed internet access to members. For the first time, many members in BEC's rural service territory are seeing the benefits of high-speed internet.

Distribution systems are becoming more complex, and with the addition of numerous distributed generators, the energy supply can be intermittent and challenging to manage. Utilizing BEC's fiber optic network for automation allows for a standardized approach to provide for the reliability, efficiency, safety and cost effectiveness of the power system as well as enhancing grid security. Distribution system automation also allows BEC to better quantify the value of solar during peak conditions. The smart grid automation will eventually lead to predictive strategies; problems can be managed before failure occurs.

"This project involved the integration of a wide-range of electric equipment, apparatus and residential solar resources, along with real-time communications for the operation of the electric system. Having access to this data will help us design and plan for more efficient distribution systems, saving members money," said BEC CEO/General Manager William Hetherington.

BEC is committed to improving the overall efficiency of the electrical system to provide members with the best possible electric service. With BEC Fiber, and the advances in communication, there has never been a better time to implement automation and integrate data into BEC's operations.

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