With deployment of a 700 MHz licensed wireless IP communications network, Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative has found a solution to a common problem for rural electric utilities: how to link widely dispersed substations with the fast, reliable two-way communications essential to all smart grid applications.

A smart grid is only as smart as its weakest link, and now with the issue of rural substation communications essentially solved, the co-op sees the Arcadian wireless network as key to unlocking their smart grid future.

"The DSL we used at most substations just didn't work for certain rural locations, so we decided to test the reliability and performance of the Arcadian Networks solution," said Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative's Vice President of Corporate Services, Ryan Hentges. "It's turned out to be a very good fit."

Hentges, who oversees IT, telecom, metering and other projects, sees several benefits: "Without communications to substations, the technologies that provide the member benefits wouldn't be usable. AMI and SCADA, for example, are all made possible through strong two-way communications to substations. If we don't have strong communications to our substations, we don't get those benefits -- like increased reliability and more detailed information for members to use to review their consumption. And we would have less data for system planning purposes. The Arcadian solution provides the infrastructure that serves as the building blocks of the solid communications to substations that deliver all these member benefits."