Access Energy Cooperative  employees have a full plate when they’re out in the field. Checking and maintaining lines, meters, substations, and remote equipment.

That’s why Access Energy, like most utilities today, relies on an advanced system monitoring tool. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is a set of monitoring technologies that can feed information from remote equipment back to a central location, in this case, Access Energy’s computer network.

SCADA casts a net to keep track of everything from substations to control breakers and switches, continuously monitoring equipment status  and performance. This information typically gets displayed for review by a technician in the office and is also stored in a database for future analysis. If any abnormal situation arises in the system, an alarm sounds so co-op staff can respond quickly and accordingly.

Although SCADA dates back to the 1960s, when paired with other grid monitoring devices such as advanced meter infrastructure (AMI) technology, it forms the backbone of what is now called the “smart grid.” The capabilities of a smart grid are still being explored, but many experts believe utilities will be better equipped to monitor grid conditions and security, collect information, and remotely operate all manner of equipment—including even the smallest generation sources—from a central location.

What’s more, data from “smart” electric meters on homes can be sent to co-ops for tracking outages as well as analyzing and billing purposes.

Sources: Scott Gates, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Cooperative Research Network, Sandia National