American Municipal Power Taps Into Data’s Clout

Building and managing power generation facilities is challenging. Projects typically require billions of dollars and years to complete. Once constructed, they rely on industrial machinery that consumes millions of dollars in operating expenses annually.

As a result, “There is a need for more advanced systems and data so that we can run plants with as much intelligence as possible,” states Branndon Kelley, CIO for Columbus, Ohio-based American Municipal Power (AMP).

The nonprofit corporation owns and operates electric generation, transmission and distribution facilities that supply power to 135 members, which are municipal electric systems or agencies that represent multiple municipal systems across nine states. In all, American Municipal Power serves about 650,000 customers.

Not surprisingly, technology is increasingly at the center of improving operations and overall performance. Thus, AMP developed a strategy that revolves around sensors, connected machinery and robust data protection. The company now has tens of thousands of connected sensors and systems in place across all of its facilities.

“We can collect information such as vibration, temperature and pressure from different parts of the power plant,” Kelley explains. “Having this data will allow us to perform condition-based preventable maintenance. We will be able to predict—but more importantly prevent—failures in key components.”

Altogether, more than 33,000 data points exist. All the sensors and machines tie into an OSISoft operational intelligence platform and a Maximo asset management system. The goal is to trim operating costs, reduce the risks of downtime and gain greater insight into the business through analytics. “There is a lot of rich information embedded in all the data,” Kelley points out.

Creating a Resilient Backup and Recovery System

Not surprisingly, a key IT component in AMP’s business strategy is the use of an enterprise backup solution. With growing volumes of data collected from all the machines and sensors, as well as computer-generated data that’s slotted into a data warehouse, there was a need to create a more robust, resilient backup and disaster recovery system. Consequently, the organization turned to Commvault’s backup and recovery data platform.

Today, “Every system within our business environment touches the backup system,” Kelley reports. “We have gained control of all the data within the enterprise.”

The strategy and technology create a single pane of glass and eliminate manual processes that drained staff time in the past. “This allows us to collect and access all of our backups with near 100 percent accuracy,” he notes.

AMP’s foray into digital technology is continuing, and it is discovering new paths. For instance, the company is now participating in a smart grid project that taps into the power of the internet of things (IoT).

The initiative encompasses smart meters that connect to the company through a radio frequency (RF) mesh network. This makes it possible to read and manage meters remotely.

The system also enables smart street lighting controls that can turn on and off with sensors. It will be deployed to 20 cities over the next three years.

“These systems have changed the business for the better,” Kelley says.



Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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