Framework for the Future

Jan. 22, 2014
Northern Virginia utility converts to AMI technology

About the author: Wes Whitley is director of national meter sales for HD Supply Waterworks. Whitley can be reached at [email protected] or 205.591.2066.

Northern Virginia is home to one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, Loudoun County. The area has a reputation as a hub for many large companies’ data centers. With the community’s underpinnings for technology, the water utility serving the eastern part of the county, Loudoun Water, looks for viable advancements to serve its customers.

Loudoun Water provides water and wastewater services to almost 66,000 customers covering more than 140 sq miles of service area. The utility was using a traditional 90-day billing meter system that was read with drive-by technology. After several years of in depth research, Loudoun Water determined that a smart grid advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solution would provide greater efficiency, save operating costs and provide more accurate readings. It would afford the utility enhanced natural resource management, allow it to redirect personnel to new assignments and leave the door open for future value-added conservation programs.

Installing the Meters

HD Supply Waterworks served as the solution provider and main project contact for implementation of the AMI system. The company served as the primary contractor, helping to coordinate product delivery, infrastructure installation and installation of the residential meters included under its contract with Loudoun Water.

The utility has seen unprecedented growth in its customer base since its inception in 1959, and it expects to see continued growth in the next 20 years. Because of this, it was important to find a solution that would work well today and in the future.

HD Supply Waterworks launched a solution to meet Loudoun Water’s needs. After research and a competitive bid process, Loudoun Water chose Sensus’ FlexNet AMI, residential iPERL meters and commercial OMNI meters. Through an onsite demonstration, Loudoun Water was able to preview the AMI’s functionality.

Because AMI solutions involve so many moving parts, it was important to HD Supply Waterworks to provide upfront product knowledge and training. Its goal was to help Loudoun Water to fully understand the technology so that it could take advantage of all of the benefits if offered. 

The meters incorporate many features that boost operational efficiency and conservation. Loudoun Water’s system has 14 real-time alarms so the utility can be immediately notified of leaks and theft. This technology allows customers to be notified of an issue within a 24 to 48 hours, greatly reducing water loss and helping to conserve resources. Sensus’ global survey of water utilities found that smart water networks can save utilities up to $12.5 billion per year by preventing leaks. The residential meters also have accurate low-flow readings.

The FlexNet system is an interoperable infrastructure platform that supports multiple applications and is based on open standards. It serves as a two-way communications highway that reaches all points in a utility’s service area. It delivers Federal Communications Commission-protected licensing for clear transmission of data. With only 13 data collection points, Loudoun Water was able to reduce both maintenance and fuel costs.

Loudoun Water also needed reporting capabilities. The AMI system works in tandem with MeterSense, the meter data management solution from Harris Utilities. The solution intelligently interprets smart meter data—linking staff and operations to other key applications and tying smart infrastructure investments, like AMI, into billing, customer service and operations. For example, it helps facilitate rate impact analysis, enabling Loudoun Water to evaluate the financial impact of various operational and rate scenarios on the utility and its customers. Likewise, it helps the utility quickly identify water losses at various distribution points by performing an analysis at numerous levels, including an individual meter, group of meters or the entire distribution network. These features help Loudoun Water save time and money. 

HD Supply Waterworks chose a subcontractor to install the meters and supported project management for Loudoun Water throughout the implementation. Due to mobility and scalability, more than 50,000 meters were installed in just six months, which allowed the utility to start seeing the impact of the AMI system in a short time period.

Sustainable Results

Loudoun Water’s goal was to ensure that the new system would be a good investment, boost conservation efforts and work to the benefit of customers. The utility now is receiving accurate, detailed information on water use from its meters every four hours. AMI also requires less vehicle use for meter reading, reducing the utility’s carbon footprint. Because the system offers detailed water use information, customers will be able to make informed decisions about water usage and act to save. 

With its commitment to modern efficiency and sustainability, Loudoun Water has found other green uses for the AMI system. It is using the system to monitor reclaimed water and further efforts to sell effluent from treatment plants to data centers at a low cost. This is all part of Loudoun Water’s strategic plan to proactively manage the community’s water needs with sustainable solutions. 

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About the Author

Wes Whitley

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