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Solar pilot exploring smart grid's potential

By Max Burkhalter
January 29, 2013

Solar energy provides a clean, renewable and accessible form of energy. There is a major problem though - it isn't consistent. Solar energy solutions depend on sunny days and enough UV rays to keep the power going to homes and businesses without interruption. In the past, this type of reliability was not possible in the solar sector. The smart grid is combining with other emerging technologies, such as energy storage solutions, to solve these issues.

In theory, the smart grid makes solar energy use much easier because it provides more insight into energy use patterns and gives electric companies and consumers a clearer vision into how energy is being used, what is needed at any time and how much is being generated. This technology makes solar power much more usable, but it does not solve all of the problems associated with the intermittent renewable energy resource. To do that, utility providers need quality power storage solutions. For the most part, these systems are only beginning to emerge. However, a pilot project in New Mexico could show the full potential of the technology.

Looking at the pilot program
A recent CEPro report explained that the Los Alamos County Department of Public Utilities is working with multiple Japanese companies on a project that will use smart grid solutions, solar arrays and a battery storage platform to delivery power to approximately 2,000 residential sites. The project will also include the development of smart home architectures in the region. The broad goal of the pilot is to demonstrate the potential of a reliable and consistent solar power delivery solution within a typical residential environment.

According to the news source, the pilot program will also include an energy controlling solution that can cut off distributed energy resources and exert control over the grid as a whole to ensure consistent power delivery to homes if something goes wrong with the solar delivery solution.

Considering a problem along the way, and the solution
A major issue with such systems is that they depend heavily on a free exchange of data over systems that operate in multiple network protocols and are not inherently interoperable. If not handled efficiently, these problems can get in the way of many smart grid-related innovations. Terminal servers, however, present an easy-to-use, cost-effective solution to interoperability by providing the infrastructure needed to connect Ethernet infrastructure with various specialized solutions within a utility grid.

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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