Tantalus has been chosen by Central Indiana Power (CIP) as the technology platform for a fiber-based smart grid that sets a precedent for how regional telecommunications and electric cooperatives can work together to provide rural customers with broadband connectivity and advanced energy management capabilities.
CIP is partnering with Hancock Telecom, a local communications cooperative, to leverage Hancock's FTTH (Fiber to the Home) network for smart metering as well as prepare for the demand response initiatives proposed by Wabash Valley Power Association, which provides power to CIP and other utilities in the region.
Eric Murray, Tantalus President & CEO, predicts that mutually beneficial business arrangements between telecom providers and electric cooperatives will become common at utilities like CIP, which serves 12,000 homes, businesses and farms in a fast growing community located 25 miles east of Indianapolis.
"It's natural for telecoms and utilities to work together," Murray said. "Many telecoms already supply their local electric coop with wireless or wired connectivity to substations. By collaborating with Hancock, CIP can extend connectivity to other points in the distribution network via the telecom's existing infrastructure. It's a logical next step that will accelerate smart grid roll out, avoids the cost and complexity of building and maintaining two separate communications networks, and consolidates billing, customer service and many other business functions under one roof."
Although CIP did not receive federal grant money, Murray said the deployment ties together the objectives of both the Dept. of Energy's ARRA Smart Grid stimulus program and the Dept. of Agriculture's Broadband Initiative Program by bringing high bandwidth communications as well as advanced energy management capabilities to a rural community.
Tantalus technology allows CIP to take trucks off the road by automating meter readings, outage detection, and disconnect/reconnect procedures. Furthermore, it can help the utility optimize the network through 24/7 power quality monitoring at member homes and on distribution equipment in order to detect and often correct a potential problem before it impacts service.
Murray added: "Fiber supports data intensive applications including customer signaling and load control which require rapid and reliable two-way interaction between the operations center and each customer. Capacity is virtually limitless, so more and more devices such as smart appliances will be able to communicate over the network without the risk of data congestion. It's a future friendly solution."
CIP is the first rural cooperative to deploy a Tantalus Homerun Network, which leverages a FTTH backbone network for triple-play media (multi-channel TV, voice over IP, and high speed Internet) as well as full smart grid functionality. A growing number of Tantalus municipal utility customers including EPB Chattanooga, Jackson Energy and Pulaski Electric are already using a city-owned FTTH network for advanced energy management. To date, more than 30 utilities across North America use Tantalus technology, the majority of which utilize a 220 MHz radio canopy for low cost, long range, two-way communication throughout urban and rural service areas.
CIP President & CEO Tom Seng said that the utility/telecom alliance creates a new breed of cooperative.
"Eighty-five percent of CIP and Hancock voters endorsed the merger agreement between the two coops," he stated. "Broadband opens the door to fantastic entertainment and education opportunities and so much more. When used in combination with Tantalus' smart grid technology, it will enable us to introduce new programs that can help members save money on their monthly bill and improve customer service, which are both central to our goals."