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Network features vital in consumer-focused energy future

By Max Burkhalter
July 2, 2014

Solutions like terminal servers and fiber to Ethernet media converters may sound like secondary issues when thinking about large scale energy industry issues, but they may prove integral to achieving the grid's full potential. The future of the utility grid is one in which the focus is on the customer, not the energy provider. This shift is creating an environment in which data is more important than ever and having a responsive network that extends through every part of the utility work cycle is critical to finding success.

The consumer's place in the near-future energy grid
The rise of home-based wind turbines and rooftop solar panels is leaving many households to generate as much power as they can on their own. The costs of these solutions is declining, making them more accessible in more communities. At the same time, lithium ion batteries are putting energy storage systems in the hands of consumers, creating an environment in which people can become more independent from the grid. It could even be possible to use rooftop solar panels and energy storage systems to turn the connection to the grid into nothing more than a backup solution.

More accessible distributed generation technologies are giving consumers more control. Many people may still prefer to use traditional utility setups to get their electricity, but the increased control offered by new technologies creates a power shift in the industry. Historically, electric companies and utility providers have had exclusive partnerships with power plants, sole ownership of power lines and the ability to completely control how energy was distributed. Emerging generation technologies are putting power into the hands of consumers, and energy companies that want to stay relevant need to offer services that will keep consumers customers coming back for more.

The network's role in supporting more advanced power delivery models
Utility providers and energy companies can use energy storage and renewable generation to offer sustainable power. The industry is moving away from legacy generation methods and toward more renewables and natural gas. There is no reason why utilities need to lose the battle on sustainability. As such, energy companies can build an edge by offering reliability, responsiveness, flexibility and choices that consumers cannot match if they generate all of their energy at home.

This is where the network comes into play. Integrating data from throughout the grid can provide key insight into customer needs and help utility providers support efficient, reliable operations. This hinges on using data for everything from predictive analysis to disaster response. Finding success in this area depends on the network, making underlying network equipment investments a key step toward the future of the energy industry.

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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