Through the Smart Grid Alliance for the Americas (SGAA), electric cooperatives in Brazil, Chile and Costa Rica will soon realize their goals of establishing Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) on their current systems. The AMI technology will benefit these co-ops by addressing their needs to operate and manage their distribution systems more efficiently and helping day-to-day functions run more smoothly. The AMI systems will also give the co-ops an opportunity to more closely monitor their distribution systems and provide more accurate information directly to their members.
James Gardner, the NRECA project manager for SGAA, believes that these AMI systems will have a valuable impact on the co-ops that will be using them.
“Many small companies spend an inordinate amount of time in the field, reading meters and then verifying those reads prior to billing. The more spread out the company is, like many of our Smart Grid partners, the longer it takes to complete these fairly simple but time-consuming tasks. AMI systems will help these co-ops by allowing them to read all the meters on their system in a fraction of that time.”
For more than a year, staff from NRECA International, NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network (CRN) and local utilities in Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica and Guatemala have been discussing options for possible smart grid applications and design of four pilot projects on which the team will focus. Once the projects were confirmed, SGAA determined that Landis & Gyr (L&G) provided the best equipment option for each scenario, and all four hosting co-ops will be moving forward with either their radio frequency or power line carrier versions.
The International Foundation is currently recruiting volunteers who are familiar with L&G systems here in the U.S. to travel to each of the co-ops to install the new smart meters and begin training the local utility staff on how to install, operate and maintain the AMI system. Each volunteer will bring real knowledge to demonstrate these tasks in a hands-on setting that will allow local workers the opportunity to ask questions and practice the skills themselves. SGAA hopes to capture videos and photos of the installation and training so that they can be used by additional SGAA partners and others looking to install smart technology.
SGAA has also recently expanded its scope with a new endeavor in Honduras. NRECA team members will work with Roatan Electric Company on the Bay Islands to assist with its goals of integrating a wind system on the island. This will be a great opportunity for SGAA to demonstrate the use of smart grid technologies in a diesel-wind hybrid system setting.