Florida Cooperative selects turnkey AMI system


William Rimes,
President &
St Louis, MO, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — September 10, 2008 – West Florida Electric Cooperative (WFEC) has selected a turnkey system based on Two-Way Automatic Communications System (TWACS) technology from Aclara to meet its AMI requirements.

Turnkey systems are plugged in, turned on, and operated with little or no additional configuration. Utilities usually do not purchase advanced metering infrastructure in this manner. They buy AMI systems and meters from separate vendors and often have a third-party handle integration tasks.

In WFEC’s case, Aclara provided all AMI infrastructure, meters, and software to the utility. It also handled overall implementation and configuration tasks, as well as oversaw the installation of the system and meters by a third party.

Purchasing its AMI system in this way benefited WFEC by eliminating time delays in implementation. The utility needed to complete its AMI project quickly to reduce meter reading costs, which were running $30,000 a month at the time WFEC started its AMI project.

“We knew that to realize the best return on investment we had to complete the project quickly and reduce our meter reading costs,” says Penny Hagan, manager of member services for WFEC. “We were aware that many coops were dealing with delayed and incomplete projects and we wanted to avoid that problem.”

Another reason to purchase from a single vendor was to ensure quality. “We wanted the system installed and working,” says Hagan. “We knew if we bought the system turnkey it would work.”

WFEC began to put into operation the TWACS system and change out its 28,000 meters in August 2007. The $4.5 million project is on budget and almost complete, with approximately 600 to 700 meters still needing to be replaced.

The utility has already begun experiencing benefits from its new AMI system. “In replacing old mechanical meters which inherently slow down with age with highly accurate digital meters, we feel we recovered at least one percent in line loss.” says Hagan. “We estimate that equates to about $450,000 a year in savings.”  

The system notifies the utility when there is reverse rotation in a meter or when a meter stops registering electricity flow. These conditions could indicate tampering or improper wiring. In addition, the technology monitors blinks, or short outages, on the system. Its ability to provide 15-minute interval reads is indispensable when assisting members in identifying usage on high bill complaints and opens the door to providing time-of-use rates and direct load control.

TWACS technology is a proven, fixed-network solution that uses patented technology to transmit data over power lines. It offers two-way communication to electric meters and provides for timely billing, load control, demand response, and outage detection and assessment. Utilities can manage customer data, reduce costs, and provide superior customer service with the system.

WFEC is a non-profit Touchstone Energy® Cooperative owned by its members and locally operated.