Just as everyone has come to rely on digital technology such as mobile devices and the internet, the energy grid now relies on digital technology as well. Great River Energy and its member-owner cooperatives are well into updating critical systems and implementing new technologies for metering, telecommunications, demand response management and meter data management, all to ensure we can meet our members’ needs well into the future.
Much of today’s energy grid combines information technology tools and techniques with the fundamentals of transmitting electricity. Great River Energy continues to expand and update its core telecommunications systems, which transport data and allow system operators to respond to needs on the grid remotely. Our system uses approximately 140 telecommunications towers and more than 2,000 miles of fiber optic cable for transporting system data. In 2017 we updated the critical two-way radio system that ensures reliable communications between our system operations center, our members and our field crews.
Great River Energy’s members continue down the path of installing advanced metering infrastructure, otherwise referred to as AMI or smart meters. This is an integrated system of meters, communication networks and data management systems that enables two-way communication between electric cooperatives and their members. This two-way flow of information and data can allow cooperative members to do things that are otherwise not possible, such as monitor their energy bill daily, or sell excess power into the electric system from solar panels on their home.
The decision to deploy AMI or smart meter systems brings about an enormous increase in data made available to electric cooperatives. Meter data management systems collect data from meters and ensure it is complete and accurate so it can be used to make informed business decisions. Great River Energy implemented a new meter data management system (MDMS) in the fall of 2015 and quickly began to see savings as a result of more accurate data reporting. These savings ultimately flow through to Great River Energy’s members. Great River Energy’s members continue to adopt MDMS systems as well.
In 2017 Great River Energy transitioned to a new, modern demand response management system, which offers two-way communications with its members. The new system offers more precise control and allows for interconnection with growing load control technologies, such as smart thermostats and Wi-Fi enabled devices.
Great River Energy’s generation and transmission system has been smart for a long time. We continuously update and improve our energy management and distribution management system (EMS/DMS). This is a system of computer-aided tools used by system operators to monitor, control and optimize the performance of the generation and transmission system and it allows members to do the same on their distribution systems. Simply put, it is the system we use to control our entire generation and transmission system, it allows our members to monitor and control their distribution systems and it provides our grid operators more control over how the grid operates and behaves.
Virtually every department at Great River Energy is using geographic information systems (GIS) to better serve our member-owner cooperatives. A GIS is a combination of hardware and software platforms designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage and present both location data and data about the locations. We use GIS combined with data from our other business systems to streamline business processes related to vegetation management, transmission line siting and routing, field vehicle location and storm restoration.