As an industry leader, Jackson EMC has a reputation for rolling out innovative technological initiatives designed to help us better serve our members.
These often-complex and exciting new technologies don’t happen overnight. Often they are years in the making, involving ample research prior to launching the project and concentrated efforts to complete the venture.
While the work of our line crews and customer service representatives is out-front and visible, at any given time, other Jackson EMC employees are busy at work behind-the-scenes to develop and put into place new technologies to improve or speed up service. You’ll probably never see them at their desks or behind the controls, but you will certainly appreciate the fruits of their labor as new programs are implemented to improve reliability and save you money.
Here's an update on a few of the exciting new initiatives in progress at Jackson EMC:
Grid Enabled Electric Water Heaters
In July 2016, Jackson EMC partnered with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to test the Consumer Technology Association’s 2045 communication standard for smart grid enabled electric water heaters. These units are designed to cycle off when the power system reaches peak demand. We utilized the new AO Smith smart water heater, which puts customer comfort at a priority during load control events. These state-of-the-art water heaters feature a communication port that allows a two-way communication module to be used to operate with our load control system.
Nine Jackson EMC members have participated in a pilot program to test this new technology. Last summer, innovative electric water heaters were installed in their homes and tied in with our power grid’s load management system. We are currently studying data from the past year. We will report our findings to EPRI and consider how to best utilize this information in our operations.
“The new water heater has built-in intelligence to maintain the hot water temperature so that if someone’s taking a shower, even during times of high demand for electricity, they would never know their usage was reduced because the water remains heated,” says Amy Bryan, director of Residential Marketing. “This technology reduces impact on the consumer, and that means we may be able to get more people to participate in our load management program, which would result in savings for all of our members.”
Grid Automation Project Viper Switches
With a goal of reducing the amount of time members experience outages, Jackson EMC continues to install viper switches throughout the service area to enable speedier power restoration. These smart switches allow personnel to restore power almost immediately to up to half of those affected by outages.
The grid automation/viper switch technology has the capacity to decrease a power outage’s impact from affecting thousands of members to just hundreds, enabling Jackson EMC to substantially reduce the time members experience outages.
Installation of viper switches began in 2012 with 48 switches placed each year. Currently, more than 200 have been installed and activated with the goal of completing the project in 2020 with more than 350 vipers in place. With computer software currently being installed, parts of the project should be automated this fall with the entire service area fully automated in three years, according to Jonathan Weaver, Jackson EMC’s director of System Engineering.
“What makes this unique is our plan to roll it out system-wide,” says Weaver. “Most companies pick and choose particular areas where they apply this technology. We are working toward a rollout for all members to reduce their outage time.”
In partnership with Green Power EMC, Jackson EMC has participated in large-scale solar projects designed to benefit all members. Located in South Georgia, two large solar installations in Hazlehurst cover hundreds of acres and generate enough electricity to power more than 10,000 homes.
On a smaller scale but closer to home, the Cedar Creek Solar Project in Barrow County is the first substantial solar power project in our service territory. With completion expected by the end of summer, the Piedmont Equity Group project involves installation of 8,386 solar panels. With Green Power EMC purchasing the power generated, the 2-megawatt project north of Winder will energize about 275 homes.
This project is very reasonable from a cost standpoint and a good opportunity to invest in renewables, which many of our members are interested in,” says Weaver.