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Be prepared for distributed power future

By Max Burkhalter
July 1, 2013

The smart grid could transform the energy grid, making power delivery a concept that seems quite distinct from its what you might be used. If you are a consumer, these changes could benefit you substantially. If you are an IT or data center manager, you can leverage the smart grid to create an internal microgrid to control and optimize power use. You could even buy your own solar arrays and wind turbines as complementary solutions to your connection to the utility grid. The smart grid provides the technological change to make innovation possible in the energy sector, but it also leaves many utility providers and electric companies struggling to keep up with the new operational challenges presented by the smart grid.

One of those difficulties is the possibility of distributed energy architectures, a new model for power generation and delivery that could completely disrupt the grid landscape if it emerges as a worthy companion to the smart grid in the United States.

Looking at the distributed energy issue
A recent Automated Buildings report explained that distributed energy paradigms have been showcased successfully in Germany, providing a usefulmodel for how the technology can function. However, the U.S. power grid is not exactly the same as Germany's and presents plenty of unique problems that would have to be dealt with. However, the end result could end up being an energy purchasing and delivery model that benefits all of the stakeholders in the power landscape and improves environmental efficiency.

This is all possible because distributed energy systems take full advantage of available resources. In traditional grid environments, utility providers pay for power from one or two generation sites and pay based on capacity-demand relationships. A distributed system would take traditional power generation sites and combine them with renewable resources and other alternative power creation methods in a broad supply chain. In this setup, utility providers can make energy purchases based on the best price at any time, benefiting consumers and businesses alike. However, leveraging these benefits depends heavily on the network functions that make smart grids such a powerful option.

Getting the smart grid network going
Interconnectivity between power generation locations, transformer sites, utility offices and end-user locations is vital to taking full advantage of distributed energy architectures. Accomplishing this network functionality is dependent on terminal server systems, as the serial to Ethernet conversion functionality offered by such systems bridges signal gaps between Ethernet and serial systems that must coexist in smart grid networks.

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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