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Case Study

Cobb EMC Installs Smart Street Lighting Solution

Cooperative leverages existing infrastructure to improve customer service

Out with the old and in with the new. The move to change out old, high-pressure sodium lights for new LEDs prompted Cobb Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) to think smart.

Always looking for the latest technology to improve customer service in Northwest metro Atlanta, the electric provider made the business case that it was also the time to add smart lighting with Sensus VantagePoint® Lighting Control.

“We are already rolling the truck and crew to change out the lights, so now is the time to join smart cities and extend our capabilities to include Internet of Things (IoT) technology,” said Cobb EMC’s Director of System Quality and Planning, Bhaji Dhillon.

Smart lights for a smart provider

In the Cobb EMC Control Room, Power Control Manager Phillip King monitors the system.

Sensus VantagePoint Lighting Control is an intelligent solution that consists of a lighting control module, lighting control software and the FlexNet® communication network. This technology enables smart public service providers to remotely monitor and control street and area lights.

“When I saw this module, the first thought that crossed my mind was that this device is as close as it can be to the Internet of Things,” said Dhillon. “It brings us information about the location of the fixture, the quality of light and system power outages.”

Cobb EMC, located in Northwest metro Atlanta, is one of the nation’s largest electric cooperatives, serving nearly 200,000 consumers. The Georgia not-for-profit safely delivers reliable electricity to residential and commercial members in Cobb, Bartow, Cherokee, Fulton and Paulding counties.

So far, crews have installed more than 1,100 smart lighting modules for commercial members, including the lights leading to the stadium for Friday night football at Walton High School, home of the Raiders, who went undefeated in the regular season.

Benefits include public safety and targeted service

The electric cooperative plans to install 11,400 lights each year for five years. When it’s all said and done, approximately 60,000 lights will shine and provide smart sensors that can be programmed to turn on whenever a storm rolls in or flash in the event of a public safety issue. If a light is out of service, Cobb personnel will be alerted right away and know exactly where to send a repair crew.

At nightfall recently, one of the cooperative’s commercial members was in the dark. An entire section of lights was off. Cobb EMC sent a crew to check on the lights before the customer could even call. Turns out, construction crews had cut power to work on a sinkhole.

Leveraging existing infrastructure for new use

An early adopter of the Sensus advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solution seven years ago, the electric cooperative leveraged its existing infrastructure to offer smart lighting services.

The FlexNet system is the only network that communicates via a dedicated, FCC-licensed spectrum, ensuring secure and reliable data transmissions. The smart grid program allows Cobb EMC to effectively monitor and manage the distribution of electricity, automate meter reads and proactively detect outages.

When I saw this module, the first thought that crossed my mind was that this device is as close as it can be to the Internet of Things.

Bright idea for swift service

“We get alerts in real time, so our maintenance folks are able to schedule the repair as soon as possible,” said Dhillon.

Repairs are in motion before a customer may even realize there is a problem. During a recent storm, Dhillon recalled, an alarm meter triggered in the co-op’s control room for a member that happened to be a medical facility. They rolled a repair crew and discovered lightning had blown a phase fuse. Without the Sensus AMI solution, there would not have been an alarm. If the voltage remained too low, it could have damaged medical equipment by overheating motors.

“Member satisfaction is our top priority,” said Dhillon.

That goes for backup systems, too. Cobb EMC serves a major retailer’s call center. Dhillon recounted while their member still had power, a meter alarm let the Cobb team know the backup system needed attention. The electric provider was able to proactively address the situation before it ever became an issue.

Smart lighting improves conservation measures and data integrity

Now, by adding to its smart network with smart lighting, members will see additional benefits, giving them power with the right data. The VantagePoint Lighting Control Module accurately measures energy consumption for each street light.

“We will have better metrics once all the lights start recording kilowatt hours for us,” said Dhillon. “It is going to improve data quality of energy usage by lights for our commercial and industrial customers.” Such data will also help Cobb EMC enhance customer service and conserve energy.


Leverage existing infrastructure to manage and control lighting

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