Kansas City Board of Public Utilities selects Tropos for smart grid communications

The Kansas City Board of Public Utilities (KCBPU) has selected Tropos GridCom  as their communications infrastructure for aggregating multiple smart grid applications across their 127 square mile service territory. KCBPU, a publicly owned provider of electricity and water services in the Kansas City area, is deploying a smart grid for both power and water utilities. The utility’s smart grid goals include improving operational efficiencies, increasing reliable delivery of power and water services, and continuing to build customer satisfaction.

“A highly reliable communications infrastructure is a critical element in our smart grid rollout,” said Don Gray, general manager, KCBPU. “Tropos met all of our criteria and has the capacity and security that will enable us to leverage it for a wide range of smart grid applications.”

Building upon a successful five-year smart grid AMI pilot project which included 5,000 smart electric meters and 2,000 smart water meters, KCBPU’s plans to migrate all its customers to AMI over the next two years by installing an additional 70,000 Elster EnergyAxis electric meters and 56,000 EnergyAxis enabled Neptune water meters. For communications, Elster’s EnergyAxix Gatekeeper will be used as the metering LAN to connect smart power and water meters; Tropos’ GridCom will extend across KCBPU’s service territory, providing wireless broadband backhaul of the metering LAN to the utility’s existing fiber network.

“The cellular network we used for our AMI pilot was just unable to give us the reliability, coverage and economics we needed across our coverage area which ranges from urban to more rural areas,” said Bill Johnson, manager of electric operations and technology, KCBPU. “We evaluated other wireless broadband solutions but the Tropos network uniquely met all of our requirements.

In addition to utilizing the Tropos network for AMI, KCBPU is planning to eventually leverage it for other new power and water utility applications. For example, mobile utility workers will have access to the network for work orders and access to key information such as Graphical Information Systems (GIS) and asset management, improving timely access to information and saving trips back to their office. Distribution Automation applications will help in quickly identifying power faults; closely monitoring power quality and making adjustments; and managing load across the distribution grid. Initial water utility applications planned will help in monitoring attributes of the water delivery system to reduce water loss, identify potential problems, and improve conservation. Applications include leak detection sensors, water pressure sensors, and monitoring water tank levels.

“KCBPU is a great example of how a flexible and scalable wireless communications foundation can enable a range of applications that provide broad benefit across a utility’s operations, improving efficiencies and service to customers,” said Tom Ayers, president and chief executive officer, Tropos Networks. “We’re pleased to have been selected to help KCBPU build its smart grid vision and we look forward to working with their team.”