VC Commission Learns of Smart Utility System

Cooper Power informed the Valley City City Commission on an advanced metering infrastructure system Tuesday during its regular meeting.

AMI, which City Administrator David Schelkoph said would save the city a considerable amount of money, uses smartgrid technology to provide smarter and more efficient utilities to residents.

The technology is all tied into a load control system, Schelkoph said.

Tom Thoreson of Cooper Power Systems told the commission that Cooper Power’s AMI systems uses a combination of recently-acquired technologies that work together to provide a self-forming, self-optimizing, and self-healing utility network. The system would work harder to provide less work for the city and allow people to track and customize their utility usage.

“Through this process, we’re able to take it from the utility out into the fully-automated substation, control and regulate things down the distribution line, actually communicate to meters — electric, water meters — as well as load control switches and then go into the home to accommodate smart thermostats and various other load control measures within the home,” Thoreson said.

He said what makes this technology so unique is that it “provides everything from a single software platform from a single company.”

One important piece of the network is Yukon, which is an enterprise software platform that accommodates load control and distribution automation. Yukon communicates to gateways, which direct communications initiated from the master station to Cooper Power Systems powerline communications devices. Each gateway, which requires internet connection to work, is capable of supporting 5,000 meters. The gateway communicates to the homes’ electric meters, load control switches and water meters.

“This system is self-organizing and self-optimizing. What I mean by that is meters will automatically figure the best path back that gateway on their own,” Thoreson said.

“Things happen over time, though. Buildings are built, dumpsters are rolled up against meters, trailers are pulled in, John Deere facilities are expanded, and you’ve got things like that that break the path that once was there,” Thoreson continued. “Well this system is self-healing. It will automatically pick one of its other 20 or 30 ways to get back to that gateway. It will do it on its own. No interaction is required by the utility.”

On the same network, Valley City can control its load control switches and support water as well as gas.

The technology is broadcast capable, which means it can support load control type messaging.

“(AMI) also gives you the future capability of allowing your consumers to get on the internet and look at their usage, control their thermostat, maybe control a charging station for electric cars,” Thoreson told the commission.

The technology also allows Valley City to quickly and accurately respond to outage calls by determining if power is out and what the voltage is in that area.

Thoreson assured that the platform is very secure and Cooper Power has a group of employees dedicated to fending off hackers.

Schelkoph said, “We’re getting closer and closer to the time when we have to start making decisions financially to move forward or not.”
The city first realized it should consider updating its power system when a wayward bird disrupted power to downtown Valley City a few months ago.