Real-time information enhances Union Power’s services

Real-time information enhances Union Power’s services
Union Power Cooperatives is employing a new GIS technology (Geographical Information System) that helps service crews work more efficiently.

Union Power Cooperative, based in Monroe, is getting worldwide recognition for an online system that gives employees a real-time picture of how the co-op's utility system is operating at any time. Information appears on an easy-to-use map called Union Power Operations Dashboard.

In the event of a power outage, for example, office staff and fields crews can see the location of the co-op's outages by county, as well as the number of outages, the number of members affected, where crews are working and the number of members whose power has been restored. The map updates automatically every minute, so users can get current information.

The Dashboard can be seen from smartphones, mobile Internet devices, as well as home and office computers.

Other services include historical outage information, data from Union's advanced metering system (such as voltage and momentary interruptions), priority service locations, service cut-offs, search-by-service work order and location details, and meter-tampering indications. Within its first week of operation, the Dashboard identified more than $3,000 in meter tampering that Union Power might not have known or would have needed the next billing cycle to discover.

In addition to opening information windows for management and staff, the system is a major aid in effectively scheduling, dispatching and monitoring co-op work in the field. All field service staff, customer service representatives and dispatchers have learned to use the Dashboard. Soon, linemen will be trained and trucks will have data connections.

The Dashboard recently was awarded the Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) award at the 2012 ESRI International User Conference. The award recognizes outstanding work with Geographical Information Systems technology. Union Power's project stood out from more than 100,000 others, reported ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute).

The system was developed by Union Power's engineering and operations support systems administrator Todd Harrington and manager of operations & engineering support David Gross.

Union Power is the Touchstone Energy cooperative that serves more than 66,000 member accounts in Union, Cabarrus, Stanly and parts of Mecklenburg and Rowan counties.

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