Landis+Gyr, which signed up with Ameren Illinois Utilities for a major smart meter deployment, recently reached a major milestone in the huge installation effort. Ameren Illinois Utilities serves 1.2 million electricity consumers and 840,000 natural gas consumers in Illinois.
The project recently passed the halfway point towards a final number of 1.1 million smart meter units which Landis+Gyr began installing in 2006. Currently, over 670,000 of the devices have been installed which will monitor and manage both electricity and natural gas for the utility company. Most of the deployments have so far occurred in the more urban areas of Ameren’s service territory. The final version of the smart power grid will include a mesh network using radio frequencies that will communicate meter data from the smart meters back to the power provider.
“The two-way network infrastructure will enable us to perform two-way communications with our customers and within our distribution system. This infrastructure positions us for smart grid applications,” commented Bruce Hollibaugh, the managing supervisor for Ameren Illinois Utilities’ smart grid and Meter Reading Services.
Other applications that take advantage of two-way communications are being considered by Ameren at this time including remote administration and an interface with home area networks that can support real-time pricing schemes. The infrastructure will be in place for any of these applications to be introduced.
Ameren may be particularly interested in technology that eases the processes involved with turning on and turning off utilities remotely considering the sizable transient student population that the utility company serves. This ability could save a whole lot of operations costs for Ameren
Hollibaugh also believes that the smart meters will make power restoration a whole lot easier for Ameren and these ordeals will be a lot easier on consumers. Currently, just like other utilities without smart meter technology in place, Ameren must rely on its customers for information that a power outage has occurred.
Once smart meters are in place, Ameren will be notified instantly that an outage has occurred because the devices serve as communications nodes. If one becomes uncommunicative, then it becomes obvious to the power provider that there is a problem. Utility work crews in the field will have immediate access to the latest information on the power grid.
Smart meters will also go a long way to prevent outages from occurring. During powerful thunderstorms, which are the most common cause of power outages in Illinois, the staff at Ameren can pay close attention to their infrastructure for problematic areas. That way, a potential problem could be caught and diagnosed before a major problem occurs.
Landis+Gyr has been operating a smart meter network for Missouri-based utility AmerenUE since 1995, making the technology firm a pioneer in the industry. That energy grid also disperses both electricity and natural gas. Combined with Ameren’s operations in the bordering state of Illinois, there are now more than 2 million smart meters deployed for the company and both networks are operated by Landis+Gyr.
Landis+Gyr’s Energy Management Solutions division is a specialist within the advanced metering sector. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the division formerly operated under the name Cellnet+Hunt and provides smart meter technology, personal energy management tools, and power distribution automation technology for more than 500 natural gas, electric, and water utilities around the world.
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