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Smart grid not just about electricity anymore

By Donna Donnawitz
September 6, 2012
I'll be the first to admit that calling everything with an internet connection "smart" is starting to get really annoying. I mean, smart homes, OK, I get it; the internet lets you control almost everything about the home from just about anywhere. That's kind of cool, but is the house itself actually smart, or are we just smarter because we can control it better? And don't get me started on smart toasters and refrigerators. Seriously, how smart does a toaster need to be? Are we talking about analyzing the level of brown-ness on the outside of the bread compared to its internal temperature to get the ideal level of toastiness? Sometimes it just gets out of hand.

But the smart grid is, really, a smart grid. It actually uses internet connectivity combined with automation technology and serial to Ethernet media conversion to make the whole network setup convenient and useful for real-time data analysis. The implications of this technology also go beyond simply upgrading the century-old power grid architecture as the smart grid is increasingly being used in other utilities, adding to the intelligence of the setup.

According to a recent GreenTech Media report, employing smart grid technologies within the water delivery system could have a monumental impact on water conservation efforts and reduce operational costs for utility providers.

The news source explained that the entire water delivery system in most regions is based on miles and miles of piping, ranging from 3-inch plumbing in most homes to water delivery systems that are big enough for people to walk around in. Furthermore, these pipes just happen to be fairly inexpensive to build, especially compared to electricity substations and other utility systems.

The problem is that these pipes are flat out dumb. Like, dumber than that silly smart toaster. Think of it this way, your refrigerator can connect to the internet, but the water delivery grid cannot. The concrete and metal used to carry this water over large tracts of land degrade over time, spring leaks and experience similar problems, the report said. Because pipes are so dumb, the World Bank estimates approximately $14 billion worth of water is lost or stolen every year from leaks or similar problems. Implementing smart grid systems in what the Environmental Protection Agency estimates is 880,000 miles of piping in the United States could eliminate much of that loss.

The potential gains offered by smart grid architectures being integrate with the water grid are leading to considerable innovation in the sector, which many experts agree could help utility vendors recoup costs and protect the environment.

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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