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Satellites could play key role in smart grid's future

By Max Burkhalter
November 29, 2012
The world seems small sometimes. When you can hop on a flight and get somewhere multiple states away in a couple of hours, things seem tiny and I end up wondering how anybody ever escapes detection by the police or even manages to get lost. I mean, there aren't any places left where you aren't more than a few miles from somewhere else. Then I go on a hike and suddenly realize just how huge the world really is. I mean, as densely populated as the East Coast of the United States is, there are still miles and miles of land that are simply untouched for one reason or another.

Dealing with smart grid scale issues
The scale of the world is still a core issue for humanity, and let's not even begin talking about things like the ocean and space. This leads to major problems for utility providers, particularly when implementing the smart grid.

At its core, the smart grid uses the network to make the utility grid more intelligent. But imagine you are a rural utility provider serving a county with a few towns separated by dozens of miles with outlying farms, homes and cabins. How are you going to get smart grid to those people in a cost-effective way? According to a recent Pike Research study, the answer may be in satellites.

The news source explained that satellite communications are emerging as a potential enabler in the rural smart grid market. Carol Stimmel, research director for Pike Research, explained that satellite network capabilities may actually improve the smart grid, not just stretch it to reach rural areas.

"In order to bring smart grid functionality and all of its benefits to sparsely populated geographies, satellite communications represent a clear path forward," said Stimmel. "What’s more, as a non-terrestrial-based network, satellite communications may be the only solution to keep the grid connected or bring it back online rapidly in cases of natural (or man made) disasters. Looking ahead, as satellite technology advances and emerging markets bring electric service to underserved areas, satellite appears to be well-positioned to play a growing role."

Making smart grid work
While satellite components can help with smart grid, some terrestrial cabling is still necessary to support ongoing operations, even if it only serves to interact with the satellite network. In these settings, serial to Ethernet media conversion systems are emerging as critical tools to allow the satellite- and utility-specific infrastructure to work well with Ethernet-based networking systems.

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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