Spring 2012

Online Exclusive

Fiber Network in View for Benton Public Utility District

A real-time display of data from the outage management system.

A real-time display of data from the outage management system shows a single customer outage, identifies that the customer called the after-hours call center, and notes that Benton PUD has assigned a crew to the incident.

Benton Public Utility District (PUD) now has a single, real-time picture of its entire fiberoptic and electric networks available electronically to all staff. That picture includes data stored in a database and integrated from disparate systems, such as SCADA and customer information. Additionally, the Benton PUD database offers version management so multiple users can work simultaneously. The system supports network tracing that enables field crews to see accurate asset information and identify affected customers during an outage.

Benton PUD supports broadband services to more than 800 wholesale customers covering more than 900 square miles of service territory, as well as transmission and distribution of electric energy to more than 48,000 electric customers.

A municipal corporation of the State of Washington, Benton PUD was established in 1946 and is headquartered in Kennewick. The company manages more than 150 miles of fiberoptic cables, 37 substations, approximately 90 miles of 115 kV transmission lines, and 1,590 miles of distribution lines.

The company selected ArcGIS technology because of its ability to provide staff in the office and field with an accurate picture of PUD's networks. Benton PUD was able to integrate ArcGIS with other internal and external systems using a realtime service-oriented architecture that includes SCADA; an off-site after-hours call center; customer information; light and transformer asset data; financial and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission accounting data; and time, labor, and work order information. Now, users access any necessary data, bring it to ArcGIS, and work with a personal or enterprise geodatabase.

One person on a mobile device can send updates to asset or customer data in the field as another person analyzes this information on the desktop using a web browser. ArcGIS also comes equipped with the version management and network tracing capabilities that Benton PUD desires.

In this screen shot, a Facility Locate widget helps Benton PUD locate a specific transformer along with pertinent data.

In this screen shot, a Facility Locate widget helps Benton PUD locate a specific transformer along with pertinent data. This widget allows users to search for nearly every type of electric and broadband facility in the geodatabase including poles, vaults, switches, lights, and sectionalizers. Aerial photo transparency can be adjusted by a slider bar in the lower left corner using a widget available from ArcGIS Online. All widgets used by Benton PUD are developed by Esri or the user community and can be downloaded for free.

"During the year following implementation, we saved $240,000 in labor and materials," says Chris Folta, Benton PUD manager of applications and integration. "The intangible return on investment is how quickly we can access data and turn it into actionable information. The operations team can see, at any time, the current state of the electric and fiberoptic networks, the location and scope of engineering projects, where outage crews are working, and how customers are affected by interruptions to the system."

Utility field crews and office staff can now access the most current information from a mobile or desktop computer. In the field, workers are able to trace the network to see, for example, which customers would be out of power if they opened a switch. Aerial photographs and GPS data bolster the utility's customer and asset information. With a completely electronic system, the utility no longer prints copies of network maps-a change that saves time and resources.

Benton PUD's data is kept in sync in near real time. Before upgrading its technology, the company averaged a five-week turnaround time for information updates on the map. Now, the average is three days.

"We have been able to lower the duration of customer outages, improve crew response time, and reduce labor and overtime costs that were a result of inaccurate information in the legacy paper maps," says Folta. "Instead of looking for physical copies of work order and mapping information, staff can use the GIS tools to find the information they need. The field crews go out each day with an updated facility map that includes customer information, usage history, and work orders to accomplish their tasks."

For more information, contact Chris Folta, manager, applications and integration, Benton PUD (e-mail:

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