Kankakee Valley (KV) REMC is revolutionizing its infrastructure with the addition of a new fiber ring. With the energy sector constantly changing, and new technology being implemented regularly – the fiber ring will provide KV REMC with the data backbone necessary to maintain and improve their energy grid.
Since 1939, KV REMC has been playing a vital role in providing essential electric service to the rural communities of Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Starke, Pulaski, Marshall, and St. Joseph counties. Now, needs are expanding – and the fiber ring is the first step KV REMC is taking to meet those needs.
“Electric cooperatives, like Kankakee Valley REMC, are deeply rooted in the communities that they serve and for this reason, economic development has always been a strong focus. We see broadband today like we viewed the need for electricity in our rural communities back in the ’30, ” said Amanda Steeb, Director of Marketing and Communications for Kankakee Valley REMC. “When our leadership team and directors began the discussion of fiber, it was important for Kankakee Valley REMC to be part of the solution of bringing broadband to the rural communities, but as a cooperative owned by our membership, we had to make sure it was a smart financial decision.”
The fiber ring project is being implemented in multiple stages, each greatly enhancing KV REMC’s infrastructure and ability to serve its member-consumers. The first phase is the deployment of the high-speed backbone communication pathways between the KV REMC headquarters and the electrical distribution substations. This pathway will carry critical system data back from each substation to the corporate office. Having access to this data in near real-time will help KV REMC to make operational decisions to benefit the member-consumers.
“The ring will allow the cooperative to create organizational efficiency and allow for the adoption of tomorrow’s technologies,” Steeb said. “This is the framework that will allow us to implement technologies that will enhance services to our member-consumers.”
In the second phase, KV REMC will use the fiber loop to integrate “smart grid” solutions into its current electric network. This technology will benefit the cooperative operationally, but more importantly provide the membership new and exciting resources and tools to make timely, educated decisions related to their energy use.
“When we talk about the smart grid, we are talking about digital technologies,” Steeb said. “One component of this is a smart meter system that can provide advanced data that can be used by our membership to make educated decisions on their energy use. Another component is automation. Having fiber available for our internal use can allow us the resources to pinpoint the location of an outage to direct our crews and resources with real-time information.”
While at this time the fiber ring will only be used for the needs of the cooperative, the infrastructure could allow for an Internet service provider the ability to offer broadband access in the future. During COVID-19, the cooperative saw a great need for improved internet access, and the cooperative is excited about the opportunities the ring could provide.
“Access to reliable and affordable Internet service has been a missing resource in our rural communities. When COVID-19 moved families home, reliable internet became a necessity to allow parents the ability to safely continue to work and students to complete school online. By the cooperative taking the first step to put a fiber infrastructure in place, we hope that it will allow for an area Internet service provider to take the next step, and deliver broadband to homes and businesses of our rural community residents,” stated Steeb.
To learn more about Kankakee Valley REMC and the fiber ring project, visit www.kvremc.com.