PEC Press Release - Pedernales Electric Cooperative submitted an application for federal grant money that could expand PEC’s operating systems and infrastructure, while making them faster and more reliable. In the grant petition approved by the Board, PEC has requested matching funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to install a state-of-the-art Smart Grid network.
“This grant will position PEC and its members to take advantage of cutting-edge technology,” said PEC General Manager Juan Garza. “We can use this opportunity to modernize PEC’s communications network, which is necessary for enabling future Smart Grid technologies.”
PEC applied for the grant to construct a fiber optic mesh data network that will connect electric substations and PEC district offices. The upgraded network also would benefit PEC’s plans to implement a new Customer Information System (CIS), a combination of software and services that is a key component of the Cooperative’s LINKS project. LINKS includes a planned implementation and integration of a CIS as well as new enterprise resource planning and enterprise asset management systems.
The fiber optic network will consist of fiber optic cables, and it also will incorporate microwave radio communications in areas where fiber is impractical. Fiber optic mesh networks are capable of transmitting much larger amounts of data at much faster speeds than existing lines of communication. One of the primary goals of Smart Grid projects across the nation is to modernize electric systems, which will enhance reliability, reduce power system costs, reduce peak demand, reduce environmental impact and promote clean energy.
PEC members could benefit from this network in the future because a Smart Grid would bring members one step closer to getting information about their bills in real time; this will enable them to make more informed decisions about their electric use.
Within the Cooperative, PEC plans to use the Smart Grid to enhance member services and improve operating efficiency. When the new CIS comes online, it will require interconnectivity throughout all PEC offices, and the Smart Grid’s improved speed and capacity will satisfy that demand. Pedernales also can use the network to access real-time video at each substation; during power interruptions, this will enable PEC to determine the status of equipment and restore electricity more quickly.
Garza first recommended that PEC apply for the grant at the July 20 Board meeting, and the Board of Directors approved his request. Pedernales submitted the grant application on Aug. 6, and the grants will be awarded in October 2009. If PEC receives this grant, the government will cover approximately half of PEC’s Smart Grid expenditures for three years.
“This grant is a chance to bolster PEC’s communications network in a compressed time frame,” said Garza. “Our members will see a wide range of benefits, and we plan to make the most of this opportunity. The LINKS project and the construction of this fiber optic network will assist PEC in building the foundation to support Smart Grid technologies.”