Cisco IoT powers reliability with flexible, always-on control for utility customers
In a state like Minnesota with blistering hot summers and long subzero winters, people rely on power to stay safe and comfortable. That’s the tall order that keeps large utility suppliers like Great River Energy raising the bar with new Cisco IoT networking solutions.
As the second-largest electric power supplier in Minnesota, Great River Energy provides wholesale electric service to 28 member-owned distribution companies that serve 695,000 families and businessesacross the state.
With a 56,000 square-mile service area encompassing more than 600 distribution and transmission substations, Great River Energy needed a robust, cost-effective and stable communications solution to support a hardware and technology refresh for the entire state of Minnesota.
When it was time to replace aging electrical equipment on a mass scale without impacting customers, Great River Energy’s engineering team reviewed and vetted vendors offering compact industrial routers. The routers had be hardened for rough environments and, most importantly, offer built-in LTE connectivity.
Great River Energy chose Cisco IR829 industrial integrated services routers and IE 2000 and IE 3000 switches. The organization successfully deployed nearly 525 IR829 routers and up to 400 IE 2000 switches to deliver superior communications services to industrial applications in the field. With that infrastructure in place, Great River Energy was able to shut down nearly one-third of their network while crews operated solely on LTE to upgrade equipment state-wide.
“We basically needed to fuel the plane while it was in the air…
In one month alone, backup LTE service gave us
an additional 10,000 hours of availability system-wide
while Radio Frequency gear was being replaced.”
Eric Rupp, Principal Network Engineer, Great River Energy
With the new infrastructure, Great River Energy benefits from always-on connectivity that’s helping optimize service reliability for everyday business. It’s also helping lower maintenance costs and improve operations.
Before the migration, any outage meant dispatching technicians 24×7, including weekends and holidays – driving up labor costs. Outages could also delay scheduled construction work since recovery efforts take top priority. After the migration, substations can operate on backup LTE for a short time until repairs can be better coordinated to improve operational efficiency. What’s more, with the Cisco products, Great River Energy’s field crews have a consistent control console across numerous sites. They now use their own customized script to automate fast over-the-air updates.
Utility environments are demanding as a susbstation going down could be catastrophic – only the most rugged, reliable and easy-to-manage equipment will do. We’re excited to see electric suppliers like Great River Energy expand what’s possible with Cisco IoT solutions.