San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

September 1st, 2009
PEC seeks 'smart grid' grant


Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) recently submitted an application for federal grant money to construct a fiber optic mesh data network, or Smart Grid.

PEC said the grid could expand the co-operative’s operating systems and infrastructure to make them faster and more reliable.

In the grant petition, approved by the board, PEC requested matching funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“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.”

The Smart Grid would connect electric substations and PEC’s district offices. The upgraded network would also benefit PEC’s plan to implement a new Customer Information System (CIS), a combination of software and services that is one of the key components of PEC’s LINKS project. LINKS includes implementation and integration of a CIS system as well as new enterprise resource planning (ERP) and enterprise asset management (EAM) systems.

The network will consist of fiber optic cables, incorporating microwave radio communications where fiber is impractical. Fiber optic mesh networks are capable of transmitting much larger amounts of data at faster speeds than existing lines of communications.

One of the primary goals of Smart Grid projects nationwide is to modernize electric systems with the goal of enhancing reliability, reducing power system costs and peak demand, reducing environmental impact and promoting clean energy.

PEC said its members would benefit by being able to make more informed decisions about their electrical use because a Smart Grid would bring them one step closer to getting information about their bills in real time.

PEC plans to use the Smart Grid within the cooperative to enhance member services and improve operating efficiency. When the new CIS comes online, it will need interconnectivity throughout all PEC offices. PEC said the Smart Grid, with its improved speed and capacity, will satisfy that demand.

PEC can also use the network to access real-time video at each substation, allowing the cooperative to determine the status of equipment during power interruptions and restore electricity more quickly.

At the July 20 board meeting, Garza recommended that PEC apply for the grant. The board of directors approved the request and PEC submitted the grant application on Aug. 6. The grants will be announced in October. If the grant is awarded, it will cover about half of the cost of PEC’s Smart Gird 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.”

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