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Smart grid moving past its infancy

By Max Burkhalter
January 4, 2013
If you try to pin down the utility industry, particularly electric companies, under a single banner, one of the clearest terms to use would be conservative. There is a simple problem when it comes to innovation in the sector - there is no room for service disruption.

Innovation is extremely difficult in any business market where downtime can create major problems. In financial services, technological growth is tough because you can't take risks with people's money. In healthcare, any new technologies present the risk of care problems that could impact somebody's life. For utility companies, new solutions could contribute to more power outages and similar disruption as the systems are developed.

New technologies, no matter how good they are, generally create problems when they are first installed because people have to get accustomed to using them and deal with compatibility issues. In the utility sector, the inability to take risks has stifled innovation to such an extent that the core technology in the utility grid is based on the same solutions that were used a century ago. Power delivery needs have changed substantially in recent years, making this conservative approach impossible to sustain. As a result, smart grid systems have gained prominence.

Evaluating smart grid's growing role
According to a recent Zpryme study, the smart grid market is expected to grow substantially between now and 2020, leaving its infancy behind and becoming a prominent solution for utility providers. Jason Rodriguez, CEO and director of research for Zpryme, explained that increased utility investment in smart grids is moving smart grid systems to a new period of maturity.

"No longer in an infancy stage of development all players such as utilities, service providers, integrators and investors must consider how the coming trends will affect the smart grid market as a whole as well as their potential in the space," said Rodriguez. "To win utilities as a customer segment, businesses must identify the smart grid applications that will not only offer the greatest profit-potential, but also those that fit the service-oriented business model."

Easing smart grid deployment
While smart grid is gaining prominence, it is increasingly vital that organizations find cost-effective ways to establish the network. One way to do this is through serial to Ethernet media conversion, as the solution seamlessly connects serial-specific technologies to the Ethernet infrastructure needed to support smart grid functionality.

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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