After what it has characterized as a successful, targeted use of automatic meter reading (AMR) technology in remote, hard-to-access areas, Las Vegas, NV-based Southwest Gas Corp. late last month announced it intends to totally automate more than 1.7 million natural gas meters in the three principal metropolitan areas it serves in Nevada and Arizona. Southwest expects to complete the installation in 2009.

Under a contract with Spokane, WA-based Itron, Southwest intends to supply more than one million meters with automated technology in the Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas. This includes Itron’s modules for the meters, mobile data collection technology, application software and related implementation/project management services.

The radio signal-based system allows utilities to collect data electronically, eliminating the need for meter readers in a service territory that added 80,000 customers last year and will have more than 1.7 million meters to equip.

Noting that the selective use of the AMR technology allowed the utility to control costs related to its continuing growth, Dudley Sondeno, chief technology officer at Southwest, said the technology’s “proven track record means the time has come to expand deployment of AMR technology throughout our three largest metro areas.” Itron said it has shipped 46 million AMR meters and modules worldwide.

Southwest began deploying AMR 10 years ago in remote mountainous areas of eastern California, where it serves relatively sparsely populated areas.

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