East Central Energy, Minnesota’s third largest electrical cooperative, is deploying a Smart Grid-ready communications system linking 36 substations with a 700 MHz licensed wireless broadband communication network from Arcadian Networks made possible through a partnership with the cooperative’s wholesale power supplier, Great River Energy of Maple Grove.
Information accessibility and security across its widely dispersed network are two of the biggest priorities for ECE, which delivers power to more than 57,000 homes, farms, and businesses across challenging terrain in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"With nearly 70,000 PLC equipped meters reporting through substation data concentrators, communications with our remote locations is challenging," said Linda LaTourelle, the IT manager overseeing the transition to the Arcadian solution. "Our older dial-up communications were maintenance intensive and required us to support an expensive frame relay network to get information back to headquarters in Braham, Minnesota. Some remote substations simply could not be reached by dial-up, and this required us to patch together a non-broadband, mismatched solution."
ECE saw the need to upgrade to a unified and modern communications platform to support its plans for additional smart grid applications in the future. "We liked the idea of a private network and had considered putting in our own wireless system," said LaTourelle. "When we studied the capabilities of the Arcadian system, we saw that it brought the security, privacy, and reliability we wanted along with a strong ongoing return on our investment."
ECE has now completed installation of Arcadian at 32 of 36 substations and expects to complete the roll out by the end of the year. "We are already benefiting from the broadband accessibility to our substation communications throughout the entire territory, and the team is talking about the Smart Grid potential of the network."