Board approves fiber build out
More than 10 years ago, Central Rural Electric Cooperative, in conjunction with our power provider KAMO, took steps to increase our smart grid capabilities by running fiber to our first substation. Having fiber in the substations has led to numerous advances in our distribution system operations. Through the implementation of Fault Location, Isolation and Service Restoration (FLISR) strategies, we are better equipped to perform predictive outage analysis, which means we are able to increase system uptime, while also reducing outage duration.
Today, all of Central’s 21 substations have fiber communications as it has become as essential as poles and wire in providing safe and reliable power to our members.
As you know, Central’s board of trustees has been evaluating the prospect of expanding fiber communications throughout our entire service area in an effort to increase connectivity in the field, which will improve system reliability and overall operations. After much research, including interviews with other Oklahoma cooperatives that are in various stages of fiber buildouts, the board is excited to announce its decision to move forward with a system-wide fiber buildout.
A full fiber network will not only assist with reliability and safety, but also it will allow Central to prepare for the future by building the foundation needed to establish data-driven rate designs. In an era of increased automation and technologies, a 100 percent-connected system allows for real-time analysis of load trends for future demand and time-of-use rates. Understanding the members’ electrical use demands and behaviors will also help us become more flexible as we see the increasing system integration of distributed generation such as solar, battery or wind.
Not only will Central members benefit from a smarter electric grid and the potential of modern rate designs, but also the capability of fiber internet services being offered to the home from the full-system fiber buildout. This fiber to the home (FTTH) connection will help bridge the current urban-rural digital divide.
Currently, there are six electric cooperatives in Oklahoma offering variations of FTTH, and many electric cooperatives across the nation are exploring the idea. The recent pandemic has accelerated the movement as more co-op members are seeking faster internet options as a result of working and/or learning from home. Central members are no different, with many unable to receive high speed internet service because of their location.
With any project of this scale, it will likely take 5-7 years to reach 100 percent saturation. After all, we’ve been building our electric grid for more than 80 years, continually making improvements that benefit our members. Despite the timeframe, the board of trustees is confident in its decision, and Central employees are ready to light up rural Oklahoma once again.
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