Alliant Energy to expand smart utility network for rapid service restoration

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Alliant Energy, a US-based electricity provider to one million customers in Iowa and Wisconsin, will be partnering with Sensus to expand its smart utility network and improve its response to outages and visibility to grid operations.

This follows a successful pilot which included the rollout of Sensus’ phase detection application across 600 electricity meters in the town of DeWitt, Iowa. The technology allows the utility to identify or map electricity meters and transformers that are operating 100% accurately and those that would have malfunctioned.

In 2019, Alliant Energy deployed some 490,000 Stratus smart residential electricity meters and the Sensus FlexNet IoT communication network as the foundation of its smart utility network. The infrastructure and technology helped the utility to quickly restore services to 260,000 customers after being hit by an outage due to a derecho (a powerful, widespread windstorm) that affected the utility’s service territory in August 2020 and caused $11 billion in damage to homes and businesses. The remote management capability, as a result of the smart utility network, helped the utility to restore services to all affected customers within 16 days.

However, as a result of the geographic information system the utility was using to understand the topography of their service area, some inconsistencies were noticed hence the need to migrate to the phase detection application.

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Randy Bauer, Director of Operational Resources, Alliant Energy, said: “Maps can get messy when you’re focused on getting the lights back on quickly for so many customers. The only thing you can be sure of with GIS mapping is that it’s going to get out of date really fast.

“We went out and field-verified those results, and it turned out we had 240 mismatched meters. Resolving these types of inaccuracies moving forward will help us serve our customers better.”

Commenting on the advantage of migrating to the phase detection application, Bauer added: “It’s a much more accurate map than the GIS system. That means we’re not spending a lot of time and money trying to maintain accurate mapping and can direct those resources back into services that provide more value for our customers.”

The smart utility network will in future be expanded to include smart streetlighting and other services requiring real-time data regarding the operation of the grid.

“The data we receive helps us better understand what’s happening in our service territory. That allows us to make faster, more informed decisions, and we expect that to benefit our customers for years to come,” reiterated Bauer.