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Water problems emphasize importance of smart grid technologies

By Donna Donnawitz
January 23, 2013

Most of the time we spend talking about the smart grid is focused on the electric grid side of operations. While that is the intended use of the technology at this point, intelligent architectures can be applied to almost any aspect of the utility system, including water, sewer and even waste disposal. It isn't much of a jump to go from connecting power stations to an Ethernet network to also attaching water pipelines and households to similar infrastructure. With many parts of the United States facing water-related problems, this technology could soon be an important investment.

Considering the U.S. water delivery problem
According to a recent Guardian report, many water companies in the western parts of the United States are experiencing a major fiscal crisis as they struggle to generate the income the need. The core problem lays in the primary financial model used by water companies is built on having to sell a high volume of water. In recent years, the amount of water consumed by households has decreased substantially as sustainability efforts have combined with technological advances to reduce the amount of water used for day-to-day activities.

In the past, water companies generated revenues by selling bonds to support new projects and using day-to-day revenue to pay those bonds back, the news source explained. This worked because new construction was largely funded by government subsidies and there was enough demand for water to pay off bonds. With less water being consumed on a day-to-day basis, these fiscal models are no longer getting the job done.

Using smart grid to improve revenue opportunities
Smart grid systems are integral to supporting better fiscal operations in almost all utility-related settings. Maintaining revenues in such sectors is managing the supply and demand dynamic with care. For example, electric companies that buy too much power to meet demand end up wasting money. They also can run into trouble if they purchase excess energy during peak hours when costs are higher. Smart grid provides the intelligence necessary to identify when demand will rise, allowing energy providers to buy power when costs are lower in expectation of increased demand. This kind of functionality can help water companies gain more control over their fiscal future.

Gaining access to this level of operational intelligence depends heavily on serial to Ethernet media converters. Such solutions are necessary to make serial technologies within utility systems interoperable with the Ethernet solutions that make smart grid solutions possible. As a result, media conversion plays a vital role in improving utility operations.

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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