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Network technologies play integral role in enabling smart grids

By Max Burkhalter
June 30, 2014

The current changes underway in the energy industry center around a single overarching process - modernization. The core frameworks that make the electricity distribution system work are almost a century old. Many of the actual power lines and generation plants have experienced two or three decades worth of wear and tear. All in all, the country has changed a lot, but the energy grid hasn't. This has left power providers in a tricky situation as they need to find a way to update the energy grid to meet the changing demands of the contemporary population.

Like it seems to be happening in so many parts of life, data is proving central to helping utility providers keep pace with new requirements. energy companies can use data pertaining to energy consumption at different times, in different climates and in distinct regions to more accurately predict how much power is needed at any time and develop more diverse energy purchasing strategies. Solutions like energy storage are emerging to maximize the value of distributed generation sources.

All of these capabilities depend on getting data to diverse locations in the grid, making the network critical.

Network deployment and the substation
Substations and similar sites are incredibly important in supporting power delivery to local markets, but these efforts hinge on properly assessing energy demands in the local market and delivering resources to distribution systems in a timely fashion. This means that capacity data needs to make it both to and from transformer substations effectively. This can be challenging to establish because many utility-specific technologies have been built using serial connectivity options. Serial to Ethernet terminal servers can alleviate this problem by converting the signal as needed and ensuring smooth network connectivity in substations and similar environments.

Reaching distributed customer bases
Many utility providers serve a variety of communities, something that becomes difficult outside of metropolitan regions. In these more rural environments, towns can be separated by miles of land that are not densely populated, but that have sporadic homes or businesses that still need access to energy. Power lines need to be run between highly populated areas and to these scattered locations, but effectively monitoring this infrastructure is extremely difficult.

This is another area where data becomes invaluable because sensors can monitor conditions in the physical infrastructure and report back on any issues. However, running cable for such efforts can be a complex process. In many cases, the best option is to use fiber for long stretches and then install fiber to Ethernet media converters to integrate those fiber-based systems into the rest of the grid network.

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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