Concho Valley Electric Cooperative will install the FlexNet utility communications network from Sensus as part of a thorough distribution system upgrade to serve its approximately 7,200 members in a ten-county territory surrounding San Angelo, Texas. The FlexNet system is a long-range radio solution that is based on open standards and communicates via dedicated, primary-use, FCC-protected spectrum.

Full deployment is scheduled to start in August and will be completed by late fall 2012. The project calls for installation of 13,000 Sensus iCON electric meters in predominantly residential applications. Fourteen base stations and antennae will create a network canopy covering more than 4,000 square miles of mainly rural terrain.

CVEC’s director of engineering operations, Victor Thompson, explained that the grid modernization is part of a work plan designed several years ago to replace its power line carrier-based advanced meter reading system for a more robust, secure network that can support multiple applications.

“Our plan ranges from the very basic, such as “last gasp” capabilities from the meter in outage conditions, to more complex demand side management programs including dynamic pricing, plus we wanted the same network to handle distribution automation functions as well,” said Thompson. “To do that, you need very fast updating and we were impressed by the Sensus offering when we talked to other FlexNet users.”

CVEC started with a pilot of FlexNet and several hundred meters in October 2011. Low latency speeds met expectations as did range. Under ideal conditions, one meter can quickly transmit accurate data over 60 miles back to the base station. CVEC will integrate FlexNet with existing outage management and integrated voice response systems, as well as new customer information and meter data management systems via a MultiSpeak interface.