Managing the Flow: How Trimark Services the Power and Water Resources Pooling Authority’s Meters
Formed in 2005 as a Joint Powers Authority to give California’s public water agencies an advantage when purchasing electricity, the Power and Water Resources Pooling Authority (PWRPA) manages the individual power assets and retail electrical loads that serve 15 agricultural and municipal water districts throughout much of California. PWRPA is invaluable to farmers throughout the Central Valley and Coastal California, as its “pooling” role allows the water agencies providing agricultural water to those farmers to purchase vast quantities of energy at lower prices. As this energy is then used to pump the water which grows their crops, PWRPA’s contributions are crucial.
The Clear Choice
However, to better determine how to approach these energy purchases (as well as for regulation and management purposes), PWRPA requires accurate metering services—specifically, those of a CAISO-certified Meter Data Management Agent (MDMA).
Enter Trimark, who aids PWRPA in this endeavor by measuring the power used to pump this water – an astounding 324,000 MWh, over the course of a year – using hundreds of meters. Trimark tracks and maintains over 500 meters throughout PWRPA’s 15 different districts. More than 400 of these meters are in Westlands Water District, the largest agricultural water district in the United States.
There’s Always Something
With so many devices to manage, there’s never a shortage of meters in need of maintenance. When a PWRPA meter requires on-site service, Trimark’s meter techs actually conduct full site surveys upon reaching each meter’s location. This includes reviewing the condition of each meter, documenting and verifying their pump data, updating information regarding the site (i.e. the site’s ID), and performing voltage checks to ensure that the meters are functioning safely.
Up for the Challenge
Clearly, managing all of these meters is no small task—nor is replacing all of them, a process which Trimark has nearly completed. This mass-replacement of meters is a necessary hassle: Verizon is cutting 3G network support in favor of 4G, and the vast majority of PWRPA’s meters operated on 3G and couldn’t be retrofitted. Thus, Trimark’s metering team stepped up to the plate and, with laudable coordination, has so far replaced – one by one – over ninety-five percent of the outdated meters.
When replacing a meter, meter techs adhere to an established process. First, the meter tech checks the voltage, then de-energizes the meter before removing it—all of which is done without interrupting the water pumps. The new meter is then installed, but not before it is tested for accuracy. After installation, the meter is called to test Trimark’s ability to remotely communicate with it, as well as to gauge whether or not the meter’s antenna requires additional calibrations. Even with all of these preparations, there is nevertheless the possibility that something will go wrong with the meter for any number of reasons. As such, 60 days of data are stored in the meter for redundancy, in case of downtime. A thorough process, to say the least.
Given that meter techs will often be working with live electricity, this thoroughness extends to Trimark’s safety protocols as well. Significant safety equipment is required when working with energized meters, including the use of rubberized gloves and fire-rated clothing.
Take a Left at Albuquerque
Though overlooked, the logistics behind searching out these meters is actually a challenge in itself—after all, if you can’t get to the job, you can’t do the job. Much of the time, PWRPA’s meters are located at the ends of dirt roads in the countryside, or in the middle of a farm field in the middle of nowhere. Coordinates are often used in lieu of established directions, which demands complete accuracy: if even one number within those coordinates is incorrect, you’re out of luck. Given the “hot-or-cold” nature of navigating these locations, Trimark’s meter team certainly isn’t lacking for patience—you can bet the farm on that.