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Smart grid gathering momentum

By Donna Donnawitz
December 14, 2012
The smart grid represents a monumental shift in how utility operators get the job done. According to a recent Consulting-Specifying Engineer report, the technology may not be a major contributor of new revenue opportunities, but it will improve just about every operational facet of power delivery, making it a revolutionary solution in the sector.

Looking at the current grid
The electrical grid, as currently structured, is built around manual operations. The news source explained that the grid is constructed using a combination of power lines, transformers, switches, protective devices and a variety of other specialized equipment. Maintaining these systems requires regular manual input. Furthermore, the system does not include the ability to notify utility providers of problems. When an outage takes place, most utility vendors depend on calls from customers to tell them they do not have power to get a rough idea of where the line is down and send out technicians.

Outdated processes include making adjustments to power generation during heavy use periods and sometimes having to use rolling blackouts, to ensure effective power delivery, the report said.

Smart grid offers the type of real-time data analysis and automation needed to change the way power delivery is handled.

Evaluating the smart grid
Like its name implies, the smart grid adds a level of intelligence to the utility infrastructure that enables power delivery. The report explained that by providing real-time data delivery and automation capabilities throughout the grid, smart grid enables more use of intermittent renewable energy resources, better reliability and more strategic maintenance capabilities.

Achieving these goals, however, is dependent on utility providers being able to completely revitalize infrastructure. To this end, many new standards have emerged, while more are being developed. Adding to this momentum, many new products are also being released to support smart grid innovation.

Considering media converters
Supporting smart grid deployment can be extremely expensive, but serial to Ethernet media conversion solutions can ease interoperability concerns. Configuring the Ethernet and serial systems involved in a smart grid to work together can be extremely challenging and expensive. A sophisticated serial to Ethernet solution can ease the complexity burden while also providing advanced functionality.

Serial to Ethernet solutions are critical to smart grid success because many power delivery solutions and utility-specific technologies are built to connect to a serial network. However, Ethernet is widely considered the best protocol for the large-scale connectivity needs associated with smart grid. As a result, interoperability is a prime concern when deploying the technology.

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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