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Recent tornado showcases importance of smart grid

By Max Burkhalter
April 19, 2013

A lot of people look at the utility grid infrastructure used throughout much of the United States and find its reliability almost laughable. The problem is that the core architecture of the grid is a century old and not really capable of meeting the needs of contemporary users. This is especially evident in the area of maintenance and repairs, as the current utility grid setup is not known for its resilience. This is clear when tornadoes and similar storms strike, as disaster events can contribute to major outages.

When the power goes out, it often takes hours for utility providers to figure out the cause of the outage. The issue is not one of competency, instead, it is caused by technological limitations. In many cases, it is impossible to tell what part of the grid has failed until a technician assesses the grid, in person. When power is out in an area, it is not uncommon for a few engineers to go out in trucks and look at wires to identify damages. Transformer sites have to be analyzed on-site to find a problem. All of these issues can contribute to major delays in maintenance. The smart grid can resolve these problems.

Considering usage scenarios for smart grid as a maintenance enabler
A tornado recently struck parts of Missouri, Alabama and Mississippi. According to a recent Associated Press report, more than 20,000 homes and businesses were left without power because of the storm.

These types of disasters represent one area where smart grid systems can pay dividends for utility providers. When major storms left people without power in the past, utility providers had to manually assess power lines, transformer sites and similar power infrastructure to identify places where repairs are necessary. With the smart gird, monitoring devices, sensors and network infrastructure can allow utility companies to identify places where the physical infrastructure is damaged and make repairs more quickly and efficiently.

Ensuring proper smart grid performance
Terminal server infrastructure is necessary for utility providers that want to develop a reliable and streamlined smart grid setup. Serial to Ethernet interoperability is necessary in many smart grid setups, making terminal server functionality a critical component of smart grid performance strategies. As a result, terminal servers play an essential role in enabling utility providers to streamline maintenance and limit the impact and length of outages.

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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