By NATHAN GREGORY
Starkville Electric Department finished the first phase of its fiber optic network installation in December, which will allow for customers to monitor their use of electricity. In the coming months, many Starkville residents will also be able to monitor their gas usage when the installation of a similar system is complete.
Robert Lesley, Director of Public Affairs for Atmos Energy’s Mississippi division, said preparations for installation of wireless meter-reading technology on gas meters began Thursday and the process will take approximately 10 weeks to complete.
Starkville is the first city in Mississippi where the energy company is installing wireless meter-reading technology on gas meters, Lesley said.
“(Starkville is) a good size city for a project like this.
Having Mississippi State (University) with an engineering and technology school here, you’ve got a student population and an adult population that is used to technology,” Lesley said. “The fact that it is a student population is also good for this kind of a project because you get a lot of transience.
Wireless meter reading is always good … (because) when a system is up and running like you want it to be, you can get instantaneous readings of your gas bill. If you know your gas bill is coming in a week or so and want to know what your usage is right now, you can log on to your account through the (Internet) and it will tell you right then and there.”
Another reason why Starkville was chosen as the pilot city for gas meter wireless reading technology, Lesley said, is because Atmos uses a contract firm to read meters in Starkville. Because Atmos doesn’t have employees checking meters, the new system won’t result in any job losses.
Lesley said the transmitters on the meters will send data over a low-battery power signal to a tower, which reports the data needed for the energy company and customers to determine usage volume. He said the meters should not be confused with smart meters, which can be communicated with by a utility company.
“For the utility world, this is an exciting thing and I think that the folks in Starkville can be very proud of the fact they’re the first city where we’re doing this,” Lesley said.