There has been a lot progress since my last update, my apologies for not staying more current. We are now in full deployment of the new digital meter upgrade project (two-way automated communication-TWACS). we signed a contract with Anixter Power Systems this spring, we entered a period of procuring equipment that had some pretty long lead times. Our line crews began installing the necessary substation equipment this summer and have now completed all five substations planned for this year; Belfry, Absarokee, Reed Point, Edgar and Luther. I have included a couple pictures of the Absarokee installation. Kudos to our lineman for such a quality job. Their planning and attention to details really shows on this type of construction that encompasses fiber optics and complex control wiring.
We passed a major milestone a couple weeks ago when we began setting a few meters from the Absarokee Substation to start commissioning the system. These systems all sound good and look good on paper but do they actually work? We had a true Alexander Graham Bell moment, “Mr. Watson — Come here — I want to see you.” when we plugged in our first meter and waited at our main server for confirmation that they were communication. However, our communication was a little more complex than Mr. Bell’ first. When we plugged that meter in, it began communicating energy use via power line carrier (PLC) technology through our power lines to the substation equipment. Once the signal reached Absarokee Substation, the meter data was sent via a virtual private network (VPN) cellular signal to the main server in Red Lodge.
When Jim Avent plugged the meter in, we waited for confirmation in Red Lodge, tic tic tic…After several seconds, we had confirmation, the lights on the server lit up showing connectivity. High all around! There were many “handshakes” required to get from point A to point B through several firewalls.
The cases of meters stored in the warehouse are now ready for installation. Full deployment of meters to members served by the Belfry substation will begin October 1. Linemen will knock on your door to announce their arrival. If you are not available at that moment, a door hanger will be left at your front door announcing that we have changed your meter. It will only take a few minutes.
All systems are go!
2018 is the first year of a multi-year Work Plan at BEC. There are several areas of primary focus that are driving the 2018 Budget, our major one is the deployment of the Digital Meter Replacement Project. Based upon long delivery schedules for digital meters, 50% of the meters will be delivered in August 2018, with the balance in March 2019. The first digital meter is scheduled to be installed in Belfry, September 2018. TWACS related work on 5 substations will be completed during the Spring and Summer of 2018. The remaining 5 substations will be completed in 2019. BEC will pursue a 15 year loan (approximately $1.5 million) to finance the installation of the TWACS project. To stay in compliance with BEC Bylaws, the Cooperative must allow a 60 day comment period prior to acquiring any long term debt. The Board will be presented with a final bid to approve. Consequently, the 60 day notification period will begin in February. During the 60 Day notification period, discussion will take place regarding loan options, timelines and details. The first payment to the vendor will take place upon delivery of the TWACS substation transformers in April; approximately $250,000.