The Modesto Irrigation District, a Californian customer-owned power and water utility, has decided it is time to upgrade the old mechanical meters with new smart meters that provide digital readouts.
“Smart meters make good economic sense for consumers and utilities alike in this time of rising electric rates,” said Tom Kimball, Assistant General Manager for Transmission and Distribution at the Modesto Irrigation District.
A six-month project was begun this month to replace all the old meters with the new ones – around 100,000 in total. The new smart meters can be accessed remotely, eliminating the need for human meter readers to go out to each device to note down a reading. Once completed, the Modesto Irrigation District will have a networked power grid that makes the identification and isolation of problems much easier than before. The utility can also remotely connect or disconnect power.
Similarly, the nearby Turlock Irrigation District launched a smart meter installation programme involving 98,000 customers late last year. The conversion project will take four years, according to spokesperson Michelle Reimers.
Both will redeploy meter reader employees. Considerable money will be saved on labour and reduced vehicle fuel costs when the meters can be read remotely. The Modesto Irrigation District, for one, expects the project to cover the entire US$21.3 million cost through operational cost savings within a decade.
The district has already sent out leaflets informing customers about the coming upgrade and will follow up with a reminder when work is slated to start within a particular neighbourhood. Customers are not required to be at home for the smart meter installation, but may have to reset their clocks once the job is done if power needs to be disconnected.
Following the installation programme, the Modesto Irrigation District will continue to conduct human meter reads for two or three months to ensure everything is working properly. Following a successful test period, consumption data will be transmitted wirelessly using radio frequencies to collection points spread about the service area. From there, fibre optic data lines, or cellular towers, will transmit the data to the district’s headquarters in Modesto.
Hora said that about 1,500 smart meters had been placed by January 21. Utility staff is handling business installations while Wellington Energy Inc is performing the work for residential customers.
Reimers said that the Turlock Irrigation District had installed 2,645 smart meters as of January 21.