Black Hills Power (BHP) is an investor-owned electric utility serving 63,500 customers in 20 communities located in western South Dakota, northern Wyoming, and south-eastern Montana, in the United States of America. BHP employs over 350 people in nine offices and five electric power plants.
There’s a hundred-percent confidence in the Tait Communications system that people are going to be able to get through when they need to.Rick Dobbe, Communications Engineer, Black Hills Power
The mountainous topography of Black Hills poses a challenge for radio coverage, with plains at 3000ft and peaks up to 7000ft. Extreme winter weather is common and up to 40 inches of snow can fall, meaning some radio sites are inaccessible for up to six months each year. Severe winter storms causing power outages are not uncommon.
BHP’s old simplex mobile radio system had poor network coverage. Users and dispatchers often had to search for the right channel to communicate with workers in the field, creating delays and risks to safety.
BHP was also tasked with providing interoperable utility communications for Wyoming-based Cheyenne Light Fuel and Power, which serves 39,800 electric customers and 33,300 natural-gas customers in the greater Cheyenne area.
An independent consultant recommended a TaitNet MPT 1327 trunked radio solution comprising a 13-site network to cover BHP and four sites to cover Cheyenne.
Tait Communications experts worked closely with BHP to design the utility communications solution around its primary purpose—to maintain a safer working environment for BHP staff.
The BHP and Cheyenne systems interface to an Avtec console at a single dispatch center, where calls can be dispatched to both coverage areas. Radio users are able to roam seamlessly between the two areas using the same Tait Communications mobiles and portables.
Tait provides ongoing services including a support contract that offers 24/7 response for any network issues.
With its TaitNet trunked mobile radio communication network, BHP has been able to set up regional talk-groups to enable dispatchers to communicate efficiently with specific teams of users on a day-to-day basis. Dispatchers no longer have issues searching for specific users and can now select a talk-group to make calls to multiple users.
In particular, outage teams have been assigned to talk-groups for prompt response during storm-restoration work.
With seamless interoperability and coverage between BHP and Cheyenne Light Fuel and Power, dispatchers are able to co-ordinate responses to outages throughout both areas with improved speed and efficiency.
In-built system redundancy minimizes the risk of network failure, improving both service and worker safety.
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This guide provides utility organizations with a technical introduction to currently available open standard, digital technologies. For utility organizations seeking to replace existing networks, or considering an initial purchase of a communication solution using land mobile radio (LMR), this guide will seek to inform those decisions.