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Advanced smart grid capabilities can breed real-world results

By Max Burkhalter
December 3, 2012
New technologies are often heralded as game changers when they are really just an evolution of existing systems. When dealing with smart grid, though, utility companies are looking at a technology that is genuinely revolutionary and could have a major impact on day-to-day electricity distribution capabilities. A recent study performed by Zpryme and sponsored by Elster found that a significant number of utility executives expect advanced smart grid tools to have a significant effect on facets of electricity distribution.

Smart grid's impact on power deployment
According to the study, approximately 21 percent of utility executives polled believe that advanced metering infrastructure will contribute to improvements in ability to reduce peak energy consumption. At the same time, 28 percent of respondents said enhanced grid reliability presents a primary reason to consider investments in distribution automation.

When asked about using distribution automation and advanced metering infrastructure together, approximately 69 percent of those surveyed said they see major potential in using advanced metering within distribution automation systems to improve grid performance.

Dave Buster, director of marketing for Elster, explained that utility providers benefit substantially from the improved power delivery capabilities created by advanced metering infrastructure when it is built into distribution automation systems.

While technological upgrades are vital to smart grid success, Jason Rodriguez, CEO and director of research for Zpryme, said many executives look to the government to provide guidance.

"Based on the Elster sponsored survey, about half of the smart grid executive respondents feel national smart grid policies or goals should be put in place, while 40 percent prefer for policies to be set at the state level," said Rodriguez. "Similar to renewable portfolio standards for solar and wind production, industry stakeholders will be looking for explicit commitments from governments to ensure the long-term viability of the industry, especially as smart grid government funding dries up over the next year or two."

Considering core infrastructure
While smart grid offers major technological improvements, achieving those goals is only possible when utility providers upgrade the core infrastructure within the grid. This involves using serial to Ethernet media conversion and similar tools to create interoperability between serial-specific technologies and the Ethernet data transit infrastructure vital for smart grid functionality. Without such communications systems in place, other smart grid tools often have a limited impact on the functionality of the grid.

Perle offers a range of cost effective serial-to-Ethernet converters to help meet NERC-CIP compliance for the protection of critical cyberassets in substations. The IOLAN SDS HV/LDC Terminal Server is designed to meet harsh environments associated with Power Substations with attributes such as support for substation AC and DC voltage ranges, extended operating temperatures and meeting emission, immunity and safety approvals associated with substation IT equipment.


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