Getting It Done for Electric, Water & Sewer

Aug. 8, 2018
Clarksville, Ark., utility uses versatility of software to automate multiple departments

Clarksville Light & Water Co. (CLW) is a progressive utility. New infrastructure, a fiber-optic network, strong cybersecurity – these are just a few items CLW is using to improve services for its customers in Clarksville, Ark., which is home to nearly 10,000 people. But John Lester, general manager of CLW, doesn’t think small.

“Even though we’re a small community, automation is just as important for us as it is for a multi-billion-dollar private utility,” he said.

The desire for top-level automation led CLW to Ignition by Inductive Automation. Ignition is an industrial application platform with fully integrated tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

CLW will use Ignition across three departments. It is already working for water and electric, and it will also be used for wastewater. CLW was introduced to Ignition by systems integrator Brown Engineers – an award-winning firm based in Little Rock, Ark.

Success With Water

“The first project was SCADA remote sites for the water utility,” said Dee Brown, principal and co-founder of Brown Engineers. “That included all the remote pump stations and tanks, and remote-operated valves. They had new infrastructure in place but weren’t communicating with it yet.”

Lester gave Brown 30 days to get the project done. With the aid of Ignition, Brown Engineers was able to get the sites up and running within that timeframe. CLW won an Engineering Excellence Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) for the speedy SCADA upgrade.

Lester inherited a less-than-mature system when he arrived in 2013.

“When I moved here, I realized the technology in the marketplace hadn’t been fully utilized,” he said. “We had some SCADA technologies and control technologies, but they were being used very sparingly. I realized we needed to do a major upgrade.”

Another project, which also involved Brown Engineers, was a $10 million expansion of CLW’s water treatment plant. The project was completed under budget and on time, in 14 months. CLW won an ACEC award for that project too. The expansion gave the plant a capacity of 16 mgd.

“Ignition was a good fit for that project too,” Brown said. “We knew it could handle the big increase in I/O points while keeping costs down. Ignition’s unlimited licensing was a big benefit for Clarksville.”

“At the end of the project, our water treatment plant was automated enough that we basically eliminated any overtime that was taking place before,” said Lester. And the water treatment plant supervisor now has expanded capabilities. “He can completely run that water treatment plant from his smartphone,” said Lester.

Next Up: Electric

“We have a 55-MW peak electric utility,” Lester said. “We’re a 100% purchaser of our power supply, so the use of that power is critical. There had been no SCADA system before, which is highly unusual for a municipal electric. But it gave us the chance to build from the ground up.”

A unique aspect of the project is the creation of a fiber-optic network. That network is part of the SCADA system, but it could support a variety of other uses as well. The fiber loop is nearly 17 miles long, and the cable has 288 strands, so the capacity is huge.

“We now have the capacity to do a lot of things to serve the community,” Lester said. “We could create a government network, an education network – and it could be used by business and public safety. There are many possibilities that can add value to our community.”

More Improvements

CLW is also going the extra mile on cybersecurity, installing new cyber-secure controllers from Bedrock Automation. CLW also has a new Network Operations Center with large-screen displays and a weather-resistant vault for its servers.

The SCADA improvements have helped CLW reduce costs, improve efficiency and have greater flexibility for the future.

“We’ve been very pleased with Ignition,” Lester said. “We really like that we can use it for all three utilities.”

About the Author

Jim Meyers

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