BY RICHARD SCHERTZ, ONCOR, AND GREG LEON, EDX WIRELESS
Oncor, the largest electric transmission and distribution
utility in Texas, accomplished a huge
feat in 2012 when it completed the four-year deployment of advanced meters
at more than 3. 2 million homes and
businesses across more than 100,000
square miles of service territory.
The successful deployment was the
largest installation of the most advanced
meters in the nation.
But along with the advanced metering
infrastructure (AMI) deployment came
the need for a cost-effective way to link
results from infrastructure-heavy urban
environments with that of less-dense
areas of the company’s footprint.
Oncor developed a plan for rural areas
that incorporated lessons learned in urban
deployment using internal engineering
resources and applying advanced radio
frequency (RF) engineering design
methods and tools.
Like most things in the RF world,
design is an iterative process.
But with the many millions of potential
RF links, some form of design automation
software is critical.
An assessment was taken of
engineering software tools that were
capable of performing RF analysis
of mesh networks and the optimal
design methodologies for Oncor’s
geographically diverse service area.
The utility selected EDX SignalPro
software, which combines geographic
information system (GIS) mapping
capabilities with propagation analysis
and automated network layout tools that
provide for efficient dimensioning and
placement of infrastructure equipment.
The software incorporates a 3-D
model of the geographical area of interest, which is built up using a digital
elevation model, land-use data and
building and structure data.
The 3-D model is critical so the
physical issues that affect the performance of a complex AMI network can
be accounted for in the design, particularly for rural areas with variant terrain.
After a model is created, the planning
After the Oncor AMI project was complete and operational in many urban
areas, the utility determined that the same
system design used in more populated
areas would not work in sparsely populated regions because projected costs per
meter served would far exceed the cost
per meter served in urban areas. Design
methodology changes were needed to
achieve a cost-effective deployment in
rural areas where meter density is low.
Richard Schertz is a senior network architect and professional engineer at Oncor. He
recently implemented the RF design standards and processes for Oncor’s AMI network and
was instrumental in the RF engineering for and deployment of Oncor’s smart grid networks.
He has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Texas Tech University and an MBA
from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Greg Leon is director of business development at EDX Wireless and focuses on
assisting smart grid vendors, consultants and utilities to better design and deploy their
wireless networks. Leon has a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from the
University of Iowa and a master’s degree in telecommunications from the Interdisciplinary
Telecommunications Program at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where he was a Digital
24 | May 2013
24 | May 2013