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Smart grid should be considered as utility providers rebuild after disasters

By Max Burkhalter
February 27, 2013

Natural disasters can be incredibly costly to communities. Besides the unmeasurable damagescreated by injuries, possible deaths and the loss of items with sentimental value, towns, cities, states and entire countries can suffer considerably from damaged property. In many cases, utility systems are among the most vulnerable parts of a region'sinfrastructure.

When major storms hit, many utility providers have to spend thousands, often millions, to repair power lines, transformer stations and other infrastructure that is damaged. Limitations in the current utility landscape exacerbate this issue, making it more costly and inefficient to make repairs. Smart grid solutions are emerging as a prime option to create a grid that is more reliable, resilient and easier to repair than current systems.

Looking at the limitations in most utility grids
The current utility grid in most parts of the United States is woefully outdated. If you were to go to a library and look at pictures of electric system installations from the early 20th century they would look pretty similar to what you would see today. Most experts agree that the contemporary grid is based on century-old architectures. This creates a few problems from a maintenance perspective.

In an era when an IP camera can recognize activity at your door, text you an alert and send video signal to you through the web you could, in theory, watch a package get delivered to your door while you are vacationing in the Caribbean. But when the power goes out utility providers send technicians driving around in trucks to figure out which wires are damaged and what needs to be done to fix them.

What's worse, the technology that would streamline utility operations is available, but many providers have not been able to upgrade to the smart grid.

The National Electronics Manufacturers Association is trying to change that. The organization recently advised that utility providers needing to rebuild after a disaster would do well to use the opportunity to invest in smart grid solutions to enable long-term maintenance and cost improvements.

Easing smart grid adoption
Terminal server systems are integral to helping utility providers install smart grid solutions as easily as possible. Serial to Ethernet terminal servers are necessary to supporting smart grid innovation because they allow cost-effective Ethernet network solutions to function in conjunction with the serial-specific technologies that are essential in most utility grids.

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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