GRU continues forward with smart meter system

Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) has received and started testing its first batch of meters that will form its new Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) system once deployed over the next two years. 

Chad Parker, measurement and regulation manager for GRU, said the meters are undergoing tests to make sure they’ve been manufactured according to GRU specifications and work properly. 

After testing is done, GRU will install a pilot group of around 4,000 meters. Parker said GRU hopes to begin mass deployment this fall. The rollout for the entire system will involve more than 200,000 meters and take around two years depending on workforce availability, according to Parker. 

The new meters allow GRU to check usage virtually and the smart meters send information throughout the day, allowing users and the utility to detect leaks and outages and provide more accurate readings. The system will also reduce the number of estimated bills. 

“We get a lot of high bills,” Parker said. “Customers have water leaks or they have a gas leak, and they don’t realize it because we only check it once a month.” 

Right now, Parker said customers get only 12 data points a year when each monthly bill comes, but the new AMI system will increase to more than 12 data points a day. 

GRU customers will be able to check their usage of water, electricity or gas through an online portal and see data sent every 15 minutes for electricity or hour for water and gas.  

The Gainesville City Commission approved the AMI system at its Feb. 2, 2021 meeting. The system will cost $47.1 million to implement for the total cost over 21 years is $79.6 million. 

GRU estimated at the meeting that the utility would save $81.2 million from the AMI system over that same 21 year time period, making the project cost neutral. 

Parker said the AMI system will reduce the time spent by meter readers in the field by 75%. 

Since that February 2021 meeting, Parker said the utility has worked to build the communications infrastructure for the system and the communication canopy is 95% complete.

“Our network is almost deployed, and as we start plugging these meters in, they’ll start building that mesh and taking all that data, sending it up,” Parker said. 

He said GRU will deploy the meters based on inventory and the billing cycle so that the utility doesn’t install at the same places and times that meter readers are collecting usage data. 

The Gainesville City Commission will hear an update on the system at a meeting this summer.

The City of High Springs voted on May 12 to move forward with an AMI system contract, and Newberry has already started installing its own AMI system which Mayor Jordan Marlowe listed as part of the city’s success during his State of the City address in March.

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