Crews contracted by KPL soon will begin replacing 400 to 500 electric meters per day as part of a high-tech upgrading project.
Following a pilot program that began in March, electrical crews this month will begin changing every electric meter in the city as part of a high-tech upgrade project.
"We'll be gearing up for the whole city," said Steve Johnson, division manager for KPL in Lawrence. "This time, it's not a test."
Crews contracted by KPL in March changed about 5,000 electric meters in the city for a test of KPL's new radio-wave activated meters.
Instead of requiring a human meter-reader, the new system will allow KPL to take readings automatically.
Antennas will be installed on several light poles around town, Johnson said. When it's time for a monthly reading, the antennas will send out a signal to meters which will "call them" to send out a radio signal.
Data will be contained in the signal, which will be transmitted from the meter to the antennas.
The antennas, in turn, will then transmit the information to a tower at the KPL plant north of town. From there, information will be relayed by fiberoptic cable to Topeka, where bills are collected.
"Lawrence will be on the forefront of technology with this system," Johnson said. It will be the only city in Kansas with such a system when completed, probably in December.
Beginning this month, five two-man crews will begin replacing 400 to 500 meters a day. It should take about 10 minutes to replace each meter, Johnson said.
"Everybody will have a small outage that they will have to deal with," he said.
In all, about 28,000 additional meters in the city will be replaced before the end of the year, he said.
"We'll still have a couple of meter-readers for some of our rural areas," he said.
The wireless communications system will do more than ease troubles for meter-readers in the city. Customer hookups and shutoffs will be sped up considerably, because crews no longer will have to visit a meter in person.
The system also eventually will help KPL pinpoint the causes of minor and major electrical failures due to storms or equipment failure.