Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) has kicked off a six-year project that will bring benefits to its member-owners for decades.
Known as the Fiber Utility Network, the $30 million investment will not only revolutionize REC’s communications network but also represents a significant investment in the communities REC serves.
Once complete, the network will add over 800 miles of optical fiber to connect REC’s offices, substations and towers. The first phase included installing 25 miles of fiber in the Culpeper region.
REC’s fiber network will pave the way for the continued modernization of the electric grid. Enhanced communications will allow REC to operate the electric system more rapidly and detect outages faster. Also, of great interest to many rural member-owners, REC is installing extra fiber that would potentially allow third parties to lease capacity on the REC network that could then enable the extension of high-speed Internet and other broadband solutions directly to homes.
“This technology has the potential to make a positive difference for so many of REC’s member-owners, and we couldn’t be more excited to launch this project,” said John Hewa, chief operating officer and vice president of corporate services.
Hewa noted that federal and state agencies have programs designed to support rural broadband projects, “so our timing is ideal.” The fiber project will upgrade many aspects of REC’s infrastructure, including:
- Replacing the 30-year-old microwave communications between each office.
- Supporting business systems REC plans to implement over the next several years.
- Allowing for more comprehensive monitoring and faster detection of problems on the grid.
- Allowing for faster restoration of critical systems in the event of a disaster.
- Supporting advanced substation and field communications.
The fiber network will be able to transfer increased bandwidth of information to support electric system operations.
“REC recently celebrated 80 years of providing electric service to its member-owners,” Hewa said. “With this fiber project, we’re well-prepared to serve members for another 80 years and beyond.”