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Smart grid rising across utility ecosystem

By Max Burkhalter
April 25, 2013

Utility providers all overthe world are beginning to explore the potential gains of smart grid solutions. Many experts agree that technology is a revolutionary step forward for the power grid, but it is also a costly upgrade and one that presents many operational challenges. As a result, smart grid deployment is often mixed as utility providers use diverse strategies to explore the technology's potential. Variety is clear in how utility vendors approach the smart grid. It is also evident in how the U.S. smart grid market is taking shape.

According to a recent report from The Energy Collective, smart grid maturity varies substantially around the United States. In some cases, utility companies have enlisted distribution automation systems that enable self-repairing capabilities. In others, real-time data integration and smart meters have been the focus. A recent study from GTM Research explored precisely how smart grid solutions have matured in the United States and found that electric companies in just about every size category have begun to explore smart grid solutions in some way.

Identifying how utilities have developed their smart grid systems
Emma Ritch, a senior smart grid analyst with GTM Research, told the news source that how a utility provider manages and analyzes data is often a clear indication of the maturity of its smart grid setup. In many cases, electric companies do not begin thinking about analytics and data management until they are overwhelmed, but the most mature smart grid systems have already made progress with data warehousing.

While signs of maturity are fairly clear in the smart grid sector, identifying a specific segment that is leading innovation is more difficult because a wide range of companies are making progress deploying the technology.

"Mid-size and large utilities dominated the list of those with the highest ratings in smart grid maturity, but there were also a few standouts with about 50,000 electric customers," Ritch told The Energy Collective.

Accelerating smart grid deployment
Dealing with interoperability issues is vital to streamlining smart grid implementation and developing a mature architecture. Serial to Ethernet terminal servers can help organizations accelerate grid deployment by easing connectivity challenges associated with getting serial-specific utility technologies to work well with Ethernet data networks. Ethernet is necessary as a cost-effective connectivity solution for data, but many utility endpoints use serial connections, making interoperability tools vital. As a result, a good terminal server solution can streamline smart grid deployment and support more mature smart grid 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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