T&D World Magazine

North Carolina’s Wake Electric Membership Corp. Deploys a Smarter Grid

Wake Electric Membership Corp. of Wake Forest, North Carolina, has begun implementing a Sensus FlexNet advanced metering infrastructure system for its more than 35,000 members in a seven-county area surrounding the state’s capital of Raleigh.

The AMI program operates over a secure, wireless network using licensed spectrum for two-way, dedicated communication to residential electric meters as well as power distribution assets. It will replace a current single-read drive-by system that has been in service for the past decade. Sensus will administer the network’s regional network interface (RNI) software as a hosted service, providing Wake Electric with added system redundancy and security.

According to Wake Electric manager of engineering, Don Bowman, the member-owned utility selected the licensed spectrum FlexNet solution in part because unsecured public networks 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,” 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 Sensus FlexNet system is a secure and robust communications network based on open standards that facilitates interoperability with multiple applications. According to Bowman, the openness of the Sensus system gives Wake Electric the ability to incorporate other applications in its technology roadmap, such as remote monitoring and control of distribution assets, outage management and pre-paid accounts. The electric cooperative will soon introduce 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.

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

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