Starkville Electric Department General Manager Terry Kemp said the first phase of the city’s long-term infrastructure upgrade is nearing completion and the department should be able to begin implementing automatic utility metering by Thanksgiving.
The department is in the process of installing more than 23,000 feet of fiber optic cables starting from its operations center on Miss. Highway 182. The cables will loop around the city and through Mississippi State University back to the station. Phase one of the project involves installing the cables from the main station to the department’s southwest Starkville substation. Once that is complete, all of the substations will be connected to each other, which will allow the department to start its Advanced Metering Infrastructure System. SED will use the AMI system to monitor consumer utility usage and give consumers the ability to check their usage at any time in real time.
Phase two takes the cables from the southwest substation through the MSU campus and back to the main station, completing the loop. Once installation is complete, the city will have the infrastructure in place to offer public Wi-Fi access in areas throughout the city.
Kemp said once phase two is complete, it will bolster the AMI system which will already be in place.
“When we bring it all the way around it creates more redundancy and alternate paths which makes our system more reliable,” Kemp said. “If you think about fiber capabilities ... you can move forward in looking at your street light controls, capacitor banks and other types of pure operation you can control throughout the system that helps efficiency.”
Reliability is the most important aspect of electrical services which will improve as a result of the upgrade, he said.
“Once we get this in place we can actually get real-time data out of our stations and that creates the platform for re-closing capacitor banks and other types of operational equipment that helps us respond quicker to interruptions and also gives us real-time data out of our stations so we can optimize the operation of it and address any issue that comes up,” he said.
Kemp said the project also provides the opportunity for SED employees to learn new skill sets.
“Through this installation process we’ll be doing some training and people will be taking on other responsibilities,” he said. “This system is about efficiency. Customers are now going to be able to have more data available for them so they can manage when their usage is in real time. This is all driven to a large extent of where we see the industry going. It provides customers information so they can be more engaged, which I think is very important.
“In three to five years it really is going to provide us the information and the customer the information to make good business decisions and keep rates as low as possible,” Kemp added. “Fundamentally, what we’re trying to do is keep it reliable and affordable.”