Founded in 1984, PacifiCorp is one of the West’s leading utilities, serving approximately 1.7 million customers in six states, covering 136,000 square miles. In 1989, PacifiCorp merged with Utah Power & Light and continued doing business as PacifiCorp and Utah Power. Today, PacifiCorp consists of three business units, aggregating up to PacifiCorp: PacifiCorp Energy, containing the electric generation, commercial, energy trading and coal mining operations of the company; Pacific Power, which delivers electricity to customers in Oregon, Washington and California; and Rocky Mountain Power, which delivers electricity to customers in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. PacifiCorp utilizes coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, wind and geothermal methods to deliver power to their large customer base.
As part of Pacific Power’s hydroelectric program, it manages a 10-mile stretch of canal in southern Oregon near the North Umpqua River, one of the country’s most protected and regulated rivers due to the salmon that inhabit it. The canal, which resides within National Forest and connects with the North Umpqua River, must be monitored 24/7 in order to protect the surrounding environment as well as a diversion dam. Here, Senior Communications Technician Clay Sasser must carefully monitor the canal for any blockages or breaches in order to prevent environmental damage. First, Sasser knew he needed a hardened, reliable communications device that he could place at sites along the canal to connect to equipment that monitors water levels. The device needed to be able to withstand weather conditions at a 3,400 foot elevation, an area subject to everything from frequent rain to snow. It was also important the device have a small enough footprint to fit inside protective cabinets along the canal. Next, the device needed to be powered at a maximum of 24 volts. This was necessary because the devices are powered by solar power.
PacifiCorp saves $1M by utilizing the Viper by CalAmp to manage a remote hydroelectric location in southern Oregon. The Viper provides PacifiCorp with the ability to remotely manage the devices from 200 miles away at company headquarters. Viper’s ruggedized case provides the protection it needs in southern Oregon’s varied climate conditions since there is no power to the remote area where the canal resides. Lastly, Sasser knew that the devices needed to be able to be accessed and managed remotely in the event of he wasn’t available to make adjustments to the device himself. As a result, the team at PacifiCorp headquarters 200 miles north in Portland, OR, needed to be able to access the devices to make necessary adjustments to equipment from time to time.
Sasser found the hardened communications device he needed in the Viper by CalAmp. The Viper’s ruggedized case is able to withstand Oregon’s weather conditions and is small enough to fit inside the compact, stainless steel cabinets which reside along the canal. “This is not a benign environment for electronics,” said Sasser. “We are constantly fighting elements such as snow and condensation. The Viper meets our needs.” In addition to Viper’s ruggedized case, the device requires no more than 24 volts of power, as Sasser required. Finally, the Viper can be accessed and managed remotely by Sasser or the team at headquarters in Portland. “It’s ideal as it can be accessed and managed by the engineering support staff that is two hundred miles away,” Sasser said. “They can log in and make any changes they need to, any time.” Now, Sasser can focus his attention on carefully monitoring the canal and its surrounding environment, as he’s required to do. This architecture provides Sasser with the mission critical data he needs to prevent and minimize any environmental damage that could occur. “This project is important operationally and environmentally,” said Sasser. Overall, Sasser views the project as a huge success operationally and financially since he was able to utilize the wireless technology found in the Viper. Otherwise, PacifiCorp would have had to install fiber along the route of the canal. “Going with CalAmp saved us,” Sasser said. “I’m sure the current setup didn’t cost us $200,000 compared to the $1M it could have cost to build fiber.”