Supporting the Smart Grid: How a Utility Gained More Automation and Control of Power Distribution

April 17, 2019

Utilities are increasingly deploying Internet of Things (IoT) devices, networks for smart grids, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), and other next-generation communication technologies. At Ventev, we’ve seen firsthand how that is driving a steep increase in the need for enclosures integrated with power.

One large electric and gas utility was making exactly these kinds of upgrades. Serving more than 2 million customers and generating a net capacity of more than 10,000 megawatts of electricity, the utility owns nearly 8,000 circuit miles of transmission lines and is known for keeping electricity rates low.

To ensure a more efficient operation, the utility wanted to gain a higher level of automation, control, and monitoring over its power distribution. With a closer eye on optimizing voltage and managing excessive loads of electricity, the utility could ensure a stable source of electricity to residences, limit wasted power, and control costs.

So the utility set out to replace its 1,500 leased communication circuits with GE MDS Orbit radios. This network of cellular routers would enable remote communication with the utility’s voltage regulators, relaying vital data needed to automate and control the distribution of power on the grid. For the utility, this meant a better way to maintain optimal voltage and limit excessive loads of electricity, ensuring a stable source of power to residential customers and greater cost control as power is distributed through the electric grid.

To ensure a seamless deployment, it needed a way to both power and protect its new cellular routers.

Making the utility’s deployment possible

The utility had previously worked with Ventev Wireless Infrastructure, a division of TESSCO, on automating and controlling reclosers for its distribution automation initiatives. Ventev had custom designed 30 enclosures for the utility’s reclosers that would provide DC backup power, grounding and electrical connections, and an antenna, all in one solution.

So when the utility needed enclosures for its new cellular routers last July, a utility network engineer called TESSCO Sales Account Manager Christian Pearce. The utility wanted to deploy the routers by September. It was a tight timeframe, but Ventev was up for the challenge.

Christian talked through the utility network engineer’s requirements for the cellular router enclosures, including the type of radio, the size, power requirements, the antenna frequencies, and the placement of equipment and the electrical connections within the box.

Custom engineering power enclosures for GE MDS Orbit routers

Ventev’s project manager and electrical engineer designed a GE MDS Orbit power enclosure that was custom-configured with the radio and power supply within a week.

Four weeks later, 100 production-level custom power enclosures were delivered and deployed by the utility’s deadline.

With its custom power enclosures, this utility is now better able to automate, control, and monitor load on the electric grid, allowing it to manage costs and ensure more efficient delivery of power to customers.