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Montana Co-Op Moves from Power Line Carrier System

Ravalli Electric transitions from an aging power line carrier system to a smart utility network, eliminating three to four days of meter readings per month.

Ravalli Electric Cooperative (REC) was the first co-op in Montana to ensure farmers and ranchers received access to electricity. For years, the co-op benefitted from using a power line carrier (PLC) system to automate the meter-reading process. However, as the system aged, communications modules failed more frequently, forcing technicians to make repeated trips into the field to obtain meter reads.

"It got to the point where we had around 400 manual meter reads each month because of failures within our PLC system," said the REC’s Staking Supervisor Levi Dunn. "As it started to eat up more staff time and resources, we knew we needed to make a change."

After testing and researching a variety of systems, including ones that delivered meter data over mesh networks, the REC decided to go with the smart utility network from Sensus, a Xylem brand. The team, impressed with the system’s long range, accuracy, speed, and outage management capabilities, soon moved forward with a full deployment.

"Since deploying, we have eliminated three to four days of meter readings per month with another two days of savings expected once our meter change project is complete," said Dunn.

The real-time speed and accuracy of the new system has also helped the REC advance its outage management and response efforts.

"We used to be reliant on our members to notify us of outages," said Dunn. "With the Sensus FlexNet system we are alerted to outages and can begin dispatching crews, often before our members have called in."

Meter alarms, such as low voltage and overcurrent, can also identify potential issues which allow the co-op to proactively address problems and ensure a high quality of service to members.

What’s more, the co-op is helping members meet their individual energy efficiency targets by providing hourly read data online. "Our members now have access to their hourly usage which allows them more control of their energy consumption," said Dunn.

"As a leading global technology company, we have a powerful role to play in advancing sustainability," said Colin Sabol, president, measurement and control solutions at Xylem. "We proudly salute customers who leverage our technologies, innovation, data, and expertise to help reach their own sustainability goals."

For more information, read the full case study here.

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