Advanced technology saves time, future costs for co-op and its members

Great River Energy’s member-owner cooperatives now have new data analytics opportunities thanks to a project at Arrowhead Cooperative that combined the power of three technologies to pinpoint and prioritize load control receivers needing maintenance.

Co-ops are able to send signals to load control receivers, which are devices on consumers’ heating systems, to switch from electricity to a different fuel when demand is high. When these receivers fail to operate properly, however, the result is money lost for both the co-op and members enrolled in the load management heating program.

A geographic information system map showed some hot spots that were caused by poor radio coverage.

A geographic information system map showed some hot spots that were caused by poor radio coverage.

To dig into this problem, Arrowhead Cooperative put its technology investments to work auditing its interruptible heating accounts for the last two seasons. Co-op employees used Great River Energy’s data analytics resources, and data from their own co-op’s advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), meter data management system (MDMS) and geographic information system (GIS) technologies.

The AMI data helped track which meters had receivers that were not operating as intended. That data integrated into the co-op’s MDMS revealed which meters had the highest amount of missed demand control response and needed maintenance. That data then integrated into Arrowhead Cooperative’s GIS, which generated a map that showed the areas with the greatest concentrations of failing receivers. Another GIS map showed some of these hot spots were caused by poor radio coverage.

Yusef Orest, the co-op’s member services manager, said the cost of these receivers not controlling the devices properly during the two heating seasons added up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“This project has opened up a true and impactful analysis of the health of our load management system and the member-owned equipment attached to it,” Orest said. “Before we installed these modern technologies, similar information could have been gathered, but it would have been done manually and through a much longer, arduous process.”

Orest used this newfound information during the co-op’s annual planning process to prioritize a list of load management receivers on which its resources should be focused.

Nathan Grahl, principal data analyst at Great River Energy, said any member cooperative that has invested in these technologies can easily work with Great River Energy to do the same.

“The co-ops have invested in the technologies already,” Grahl said. “Here’s a quick way you can clean up what you’ve already spent money on. The time on the analysis is not weeks or months – it’s only hours.”