What’s a Smart Meter?
What exactly is a smart meter? A typical, analog electric meter has tiny mechanical dials that someone—you or a utility worker—has to read each month (or bi-monthly) in order to report the home’s measured power usage. There are no dials on a Smart Meter. It has a digital face, and unlike analog meters, it can send—automatically and almost instantly—your power usage to the utility. Some digital meters are not “smart.” If its wireless, it will say “FCC ID” on the face of the meter.
The digital Smart Meter records electric usage data as often as every minute or as infrequently as every hour around the clock. Naperville, in its search for a Smart Meter vendor, requested that some residential Smart Meters be able to read at 5 minute intervals and other residential meters read every 15 minutes. The Smart Meter transmits the data collected via a wireless radio frequency (RF) network back to the utility. According to documentation from a California utility (PG&E), a typical meter uses its wireless communications (for any one of multiple functions, including time synchronization, pings/wellness checks, and network “chatter”) every 6-8 seconds. Meters closer to a Gatekeeper can be communicating even more frequently. Non-residential buildings, such as businesses, churches, and SCHOOLS, will communicate at least as often.
- Naperville Mesh Network components:
WHY is Naperville doing this?
The following 2 documents describe Naperville’s plans. Much more information is on the city’s website at Naperville.il.us/smartgrid.aspx
- From SmartGrid.gov’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL): City of Naperville – Case Study - At the Forefront of the Smart Grid: Empowering Consumers in Naperville, Illinois
- The Office of the President of the United States’ June 2011 document “A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR THE 21st CENTURY GRID: Enabling Our Secure Energy Future“, see page 28 that shows Naperville as a Case Study
Other photos of Naperville Mesh Network components are below. The device with four white tubes at the top of the pole is called a Tropos. This wireless device is wired to a Collector Meter, a.k.a. “Gatekeeper,” a gray box on the curve of the light pole. The Gatekeeper collects usage data from approximately 400 homes in the vicinity.
Chicago at Ellsworth (North Central College in front of Wentz Hall)
Aurora Rd. west of River Rd.
- Gartner Rd. near Charles St.