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Houston project emphasizes promise of smart grid

By Donna Donnawitz
July 8, 2014

Put a few serial to Ethernet terminal servers into a large-scale utility network and you have the integration framework you need to get started with a smart grid. This is where many utility providers are around the country as they work to unify smart meter strategies with network plans to create a fully integrated intelligent grid architecture. The promise of such projects can be hard to envision because most fully-functional smart grids are still a few years away. However, CenterPoint Energy Inc. a Houston-area energy provider that supports approximately 50,000 miles of power lines, is already seeing significant results in its smart grid project, Bloomberg reported.

CenterPoint's smart grid project
The news source explained that CenterPoint has already worked to install smart meters and specialized wireless network tools that work in conjunction with software systems to gather data from nearby homes and businesses at 15 minute intervals. Moving forward, the organization will install more sensors and monitoring devices throughout its grid network, but it has already made it far enough in the project to begin seeing significant gains.

According to the report, a typical power outage may take hours, and possibly days, to identify. The problem is that there are few details available to reveal the location of the outage other than individuals calling saying they don't have power. Improving reliability and reducing maintenance costs is one of the major benefits of the smart grid, and CenterPoint is already beginning to receive these gains. The sensors and monitoring devices in place are already reducing the amount of time it takes to respond to outages. Over time, the organization expects to be collecting so much data pertaining to grid conditions that it will be able to anticipate outages and respond accordingly.

Jeff Myerson, a manager for CenterPoint told the news source that the organization's smart grid efforts take the form of moving a mechanical setup into a digital one.

The network's role in smart grid developments
Taking advantage of smart grid resources depends on moving data over long distances and between unique industry-specific infrastructure that may have specialized connectivity requirements. The end result is an environment in which fiber networks, Ethernet systems and serial solutions are all needed in a common network architecture. Media converters and terminal servers play a critical role in supporting this functionality and unlocking the full potential offered by the smart 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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