High-Speed Broadband for Solar Panels Helps Wisconsin Tribe

A great example of how good broadband connectivity can benefit rural communities comes from The Forest County Potawatomi Community in Wisconsin.

As the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) highlighted in a recent blog post, the tribe’s community center has long been powered via solar panels. Until recently, there were a lot of challenges maintaining those panels. But a grant from NTIA’s Tribal Broadband program changed that by enabling the community to obtain high-speed broadband connectivity to its solar arrays.

Broadband for Solar Panels

Before the grant, Energy Sustainability Specialist Alex Lange would have to drive to the solar arrays to ensure things were operating correctly. The data would be stored on USBs, which had 30-day capacities. Download speeds were so low that data collection could take three days. Finally, if the system had a power loss, the data would be lost. In one instance, data was lost when a vendor went out of business.

The grant, for $125,232, provided broadband connectivity to eGauges. Those are small devices that monitor solar panel wattage, help diagnose issues and provide 90-day offline backup.

The move to broadband connectivity meant that the community center no longer relies on an outside manufacturer or data vendor to understand how the solar panels are working. And no data has been lost since the change was made.

“Before the grant, we were generating in the dark. We had no clue what [power] was or was not being generated,” Jerry Hauber, the Energy Manager of the Forest County Potawatomi Community, told NTIA. “Now we can simply log into a system and see if the solar array is generating. And if it’s not, Alex [Lange, Energy Sustainability Specialist] can figure out what’s going on.”

Additional information about how high-speed broadband to the solar arrays have benefitted the tribe can be found in this blog post.


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