T&D World Magazine

Northeastern Rural Electric Membership Installs Advanced Metering

Tantalus Systems Corp. has announced that Northeastern Rural Electric Membership Corporation in Indiana has commissioned a Tantalus Utility Network (TUNetR) to serve as its advanced metering communications system.

Northeastern is a Touchstone Energy Cooperative that distributes power to 25,000 members located in northeast Indiana. Implementation of TUNet allows the utility to incorporate advanced functionality - such as outage reporting, on-demand reads, and power quality monitoring - at locations of its choosing, anywhere within the service area. Deployment of applications to select members where these services are needed or of value to Northeastern members is made possible by the long-range, wireless TUNet radio network which blankets Northeastern's large, primarily rural service area.

"An RF-based communications network proved to be the best fit for us," says Gregg Kiess, president of Northeastern REMC. "The flexibility, scalability, and broad coverage affords us the freedom to deploy a variety of utility applications starting with AMR. The operational flexibility TUNet affords us will help us to continue delivering superior customer service and operational excellence. Fewer truck rolls, faster service response, and safer working conditions will all result from access to real-time data which can pinpoint specific problem areas during outages and assist in restoring power. Down the road we will already have a network in place so that minimal infrastructure is needed to support follow on applications or additional endpoints."

Full deployment of the Tantalus system to all Northeastern members is expected to follow successful completion of the pilot phase. TUNet is a long-range, multipurpose communications backbone network that enables a utility to extend the functionality of its distribution infrastructure. It incorporates a 220 MHz WAN that covers up to 2,500 square miles from a single radio tower, even over challenging terrain, and a 900 MHz LAN that cost-effectively connects clusters of devices in an area. Together, this network provides robust and reliable two-way communication between the utility and distribution apparatus.

"We're seeing more and more co-ops take a serious look at RF communication," says Eric Murray, Tantalus' vice president of Sales and Business Development. "Past concerns surrounding the suitability of wireless communication in rural and sparsely populated areas have been busted on both the technology and business case fronts. Co-ops like Northeastern see the operational and business benefits of RF and the elegant way in which they can be incorporated into operations. It's not an all-or-nothing proposition."

James Eitsert, Northeastern's Engineering Supervisor concludes: "With TUNet, we can introduce advanced functionality when and where it makes sense and gain maximum benefits from these investments with minimal effort and infrastructure buildup. It gives us the freedom to deploy advanced applications where and when they are needed most."

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