South Central Power deploys new PLC and smart metering system


South Central Power’s team has decided to upgrade to a next-generation advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solution.

The team opted to upgrade to the Sensus AMI solution, powered by FlexNet communication network, a robust system that would enable the team to collect, deliver, manage and analyse meter data remotely in near-real-time over a secure two-way communication network.

South Central Power will use the system for distribution automation, automating their distribution system to give them greater visibility and control to greatly improve overall customer satisfaction.

“Not only does Sensus have a great reputation in the industry, but they know what they are talking about and have proven solutions,” said Allison Saffle, vice president of member services. “Working with the team has been a seamless process.”

In phase one, South Central Power is deploying 25,000 stratus electricity meters which allow the co-op to pinpoint an outage without waiting for a customer to call them. With improved outage response time and accurate usage data, the team is confident this investment will have a tangible impact on their members’ overall experience.

“Having a handle on usage data will provide better rate structures,” said Saffle. “This will improve operations and allow us to offer more benefits to members in the future.”

South Central Power provides electricity to more than 118,000 customers within 24 counties in central and southern Ohio, including parts of the Columbus metro-area.

While residents appreciate the scenery offered amid the region’s rolling hills, traveling the hilly terrain to read meters was labour intensive and South Central Power turned to the available option at the time, Power Line Carrier (PLC).

After years of successfully capturing billing reads, their aging system became hard to maintain and prevented them from keeping pace with the benefits available in newer communication systems.

“We struggled to work efficiently on our existing system,” said South Central Power’s Vice President of Engineering and Operations Tom Musick. “Because the system was older, parts were no longer available when they needed to be replaced.”

The legacy PLC system required a lot of electrical switching from substation to substation, which often resulted in reduced meter reading capability. The cooperative also relied on customer calls to understand when outages occurred, rarely getting a full picture of the outage until they sent a technician to investigate.

“We identified a need for communication devices in the field that could work with other smart devices and applications,” said South Central Power director of utility services Nathan Whitacre. “Essentially, we were looking for a platform to allow us to grow with the changing times.”

The entire deployment is expected to be completed in less than three years.