San Bernard Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SBEC) has chosen the Sensus FlexNet system as the foundational technology for a comprehensive communications network that the utility will deploy to help ensure excellent service for its 16,000 members. The co-op serves a seven-county territory near Houston, Texas.
“We needed to upgrade our system to a two-way communication network that could manage remote meter reading and connect/disconnect as well as provide real-time outage information,” said SBEC’s IT Manager, Doug Lambert. “We went looking for a system to replace the existing AMR system that has served us well for the past 20 years.”
SBEC moved ahead on a formal agreement for full deployment of 24,000 Sensus iCon meters and six base stations beginning in February 2012 after a successful pilot. SBEC personnel have thus far deployed 9,000 electric meters with completion projected for the end of this year.
The Sensus FlexNet solution offered SBEC a number of options that were beyond the reach of its existing advanced meter reading configuration, such as compatibility with its outage management and customer information systems. The secure, licensed spectrum frequency also enables the Bellville, Texas, utility to better cope with interfering frequencies that often accompany major metropolitan regions.
Lambert said that the move to a wireless communications system has already proved its value despite only a partial build-out.
“We’ve been impressed by the system’s low-latency as it’s quicker in showing alarm conditions in the OMS, which means we can get the customer’s power back on much sooner and often without a phone call,” said Lambert. “I can ping a meter and get a response in less than three seconds; I don’t know any other system that can do that.”
Assisting in the research was the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) which partnered with Sensus last year to recommend to its members a wireless communications solution that automates meter reads, reduces truck rolls and receives real-time notification of outages for faster service restoration.