In two weeks, Westar Energy plans to begin its mass installation of smart meters throughout Lawrence.
Westar has set Oct. 17 as the day that meter installation will begin, Westar’s SmartStar director Hal Jensen said.
The installations are expected to start in the southwest corner of the city. By the end of the year, Westar hopes to be predominantly finished with all of the 44,000 meter exchanges.
Part of the $39 million smart meter project includes upgrading computer and software technology used to operate Westar’s customer base. Integrating smart meter data to flow between the company’s departments, such as customer service and billing, has taken longer than expected.
Those delays have pushed installation of the meters back by almost six months. However, Jensen stressed that the difficulties haven’t been with the meters themselves or communication between the meters and Westar’s main technology hub.
“That is proven and tested technology,” Jensen said.
In January, [Westar installed several hundred smart meters] in a pilot project in the Deerfield neighborhood. So far, about 25 percent of the customers in the pilot neighborhood actively access the online information, and a few of those customers have signed up for other online information, such as budget alerts and weekly and monthly summaries of energy use.
Before the next round of meters goes in, installers will knock on customers’ doors to inform them of the switch. Those customers’ power will be off for one or two minutes.
When the installation is finished, a packet will be left on the customers’ front doors explaining how to access data online. If Westar is unable to exchange the meter, workers will leave a note on the door asking for the resident to call the company and set up a time for the exchange.
A day after the new meters are installed, customers should be able to access online information. With the smart meters, customers will be able to go online and track their energy usage by the hour.
The idea is that the information can help customers make better decisions on energy consumption. One day, the meter could provide the data needed to establish a new pricing structure in which energy is most expensive when demand is at its highest.
More information about smart meters and Westar’s installation plans can be found online at WestarEnergy.com/SmartStar.
: http://Westar installed several hundred smart meters
Lawrence residents will have to wait a little longer for smart meters as Westar Energy continues to toil with the technology meant to support them.
The schedule for deploying the smart meters has been pushed back another six weeks to mid or late September, said Hal Jensen, director of Westar’s SmartStar program.
When the program was announced in 2010, Westar had originally set late spring as the date to install more than 44,000 meters to all Westar customers in Lawrence. In May, the installation date was moved back to late July.
“What we are finding, we didn’t allow enough time to work through all the testing and quality assurance and integration type of efforts that had to happen,” Jensen said.
The $39 million SmartStar program that will bring the meters to Lawrence also includes an upgrade in computer and software technology needed to support Westar’s entire customer base. And the technology is intended to integrate data so it can flow between the company departments, such as billing and customer service.
When the meters are installed in Lawrence, Jensen said, the company wants to make sure customers have access to the online information the next day.
With the smart meters, customers will be able to go online and track their energy usage by the hour. The idea is that the information can help customers make better decisions on energy consumption. One day, the meter could provide the data needed to establish a new pricing structure in which energy is most expensive when demand is at its highest.
There are some folks in Lawrence who already have the smart meters.
In bone-chilling temperatures last January, Westar began installing smart meters in a pilot project area of the Deerfield Neighborhood. By the beginning of June, customers in that neighborhood could go online and find detailed information on their energy usage.
So far, Jensen said “there have been no issues with the meters” in the pilot project. However, Westar is still reading the meters manually for billing.
As of now, Westar hasn’t determined what neighborhoods will be the next to get meters. But Jensen said he’s confident that by the end of the year the vast majority will be installed.
Westar holds open house Thursday
Westar Energy will hold an open house from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Spring Hill Suites, 1 Riverfront Plaza. The open house will focus on the upgrades Westar Energy is making at its Sixth Street substation. The project, which costs more than $1 million, will replace eight cables leaving from the substation and should improve the reliability of the system.