AMI (Automated Meter Infrastructure) solutions have been around for 20 to 30 years. Utilities purchasing these systems peaked approximately 10 years ago when the predominate technology at that time was Power Line Carrier (PLC).

PLC made sense to utility customers because they owned the power lines and their meters were connected to them. Signals were placed on the power lines and the connected meters responded to the signal and reported back over the power line.

The PLC systems were not, however, without their drawbacks. In order for the system to communicate properly, the power lines had to be in good shape and without interference from other equipment or tree limbs. There were also limitations on the lengths of the power lines and the number of meters that would properly communicate back. In recent years, other AMI technologies have emerged. Almost all of the customers who had purchased a PLC system in the last 20 to 30 years are looking to replace it.

Point-to-point communication via either cell phone or radio, as well as mesh radio network systems, have become more popular. Mesh network systems allow meters to communicate with each other over low-power radio transmitters and pass information down to the next meter until it reaches the office for processing. Mesh network systems and point-to-point systems are steadily replacing the PLC technology.

mesh-network-diagram

Image credit: Eaton’s Cooper Power Systems

Eaton’s Cooper Power Systems (also referred to as Cooper or Cooper Power) offers a mesh network solution combined with powerful software called Yukon.  The solution offered by Cooper has the meter-reading capability as well as additional features such as voltage management, load control, communication and control capability for other equipment. Unlike most competitors, the Cooper system does not require the utility to specify a single meter and it can read suitable water meters as well. The combined electric and water reads make it very attractive to municipal systems who have both water and electric. The mesh network technology AMI system also has much lower installation and operating costs than power line carrier systems. The added information that can be gained from the meters as well as the additional solutions make the Cooper AMI and Yukon solution very attractive to utilities.

If you are interested in switching to a mesh network system, please contact your Gresco Account Manager to set up a consultation!

Andrew Rush, P.E.
Technical Representative
Mt. Olive, MS