T&D World Magazine

Alabama Power Approves 50,000-Meter Expansion of AMDS Network

Advanced Metering Data Systems, has received a contract from Alabama Power Company (Birmingham, Alabama) to provide advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) monitoring services for 50,000 electricity meters to be installed in APC’s service territory by year’s end. The deployment follows the successful 2004 trial of 500 meters in APC’s metropolitan Birmingham service territory.

Derl Rhoades, principal in Alabama Power Company’s Power Delivery Metering Department, characterized the plan for the next phase: “The strong performance of the 500-meter AMDS trial system in Birmingham over the past year gave us the confidence to move ahead with this 50,000-meter expansion before the end of 2005. The new deployment includes 45,000 2-way residential meters, allowing top-of-the-hour synchronized hourly reads, on-demand reads, real-time outage management and voltage monitoring for each meter,” Rhoades explained. “The expansion also includes 5000 C&I meters with the AMDS system providing demand register reads/resets, advanced meter multiregister reads and 2-way C12.19 table tunneling capability for all meters,” Rhoades added.

When asked about long-term expectations for the deployment, Rhoades went on to explain: “The 2-way functionality and real-time information provided by the AMDS design represent capabilities we have long wanted to see seamlessly incorporated into an AMR system. Our expectation is that this system will positively impact many other facets of APC’s operations in addition to meter reading. The system puts real meaning into the popular catch-phrase: Advanced Metering Infrastructure. Beyond AMR, it is a vital component of a comprehensive plan that will ultimately help us improve customer service, distribution, transmission, accounting and generation operations.”

Rapid deployment and installation efficiency are key hallmarks of the AMDS network topology. The patented AMDS Connect technology employed in the AMDS network architecture allows a meter end-point to reliably communicate directly with tower-mounted AMDS base stations, thus eliminating hundreds or even thousands of complex, intermediate tier pole-top and/or roof-top mounted data collectors and their associated data bases and discovery processes. Further, since AMDS tower equipment is installed first, each meter can be 100% field verified and GPS location coded upon deployment, ensuring first visit success.

“The tower siting plan and propagation analysis were provided to APC in a matter of days” said Marc Reed, Vice-president of Software & Systems for AMDS. Within the next 45 days, three existing radio towers were leased and equipped with AMDS transceivers, providing the initial 50 square mile trial deployment coverage – an area encompassing four zip codes in the metro-Birmingham area. However, the AMDS system actually proved to deliver point-to-point ranges in excess of 20 miles, even in the rolling hills of Birmingham. As a result, those three towers actually cover about 600 square miles enabling future meter deployments without the need to expand the existing network infrastructure,” Reed emphasized.

In 2004, AMDS licensed Sensus Metering Systems of Raleigh, North Carolina, to manufacture an under-the-glass AMDS meter module for the Sensus iCon electricity meter incorporating the AMDS Connect™ network architecture that is being deployed by APC. AMDS Connect™is the only system approved by the FCC to operate on unshared primary use spectrum, providing utilities the right-of-way to the communications back-haul over the life of a deployment. In 2005, Sensus became the exclusive marketing and sales channel for AMDS Connect among electric utilities throughout North America.

“The trial system APC deployed last year near downtown Birmingham also demonstrated an ability to transmit from inside downtown buildings and through meter vaults in basements without special programming or a remote antenna. This same network can also read battery-operated water and gas meters without modification or added pole-top repeaters,” Reed concluded.

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