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Leveraging Wireless Broadband Technology within the Smart Grid

Smart Grid

September 01, 2009

Leveraging Wireless Broadband Technology within the Smart Grid

By Erin Harrison
Senior Editor
This afternoon’s session of the Smart Grid Summit at the 20th Annual ITEXPO in Los Angeles addressed leveraging wireless broadband technology within the so-called “smart grid,” which updates traditional power grids by carrying electricity using digital technology.

Keynote speaker Kevin Suitor, vice president of corporate marketing of Ontario-based Redline Communications (News - Alert), discussed some of the pivotal factors necessary to successfully leverage the smart grids initiative, first noting the imperative for adequate support from utilities. Industry experts say smart grids could hold a key to improving electrical system efficiency and environmental footprint while making the system more reliable, with fewer outages.
Of the $43 billion federal appropriation allocated for the energy sector in the U.S. stimulus package, roughly $4.5 billion is aimed at smart grid projects. IT research firm Gartner (News - Alert) estimates that more than 150 million so-called “smart meters” to be installed worldwide in the next five years, with approximately 50 percent installed in North America.
This is a big market, which means it’s going to get a lot of hype, too,” Suitor cautioned. “This is not your father’s electric grid.”
A smart grid has Internet connectivity so that signals can be sent and received for each and every connected and authorized device. For example, take smart meters. In a broader sense, the smart grid concept creators envisaged that the entire grid would work more efficiently, accommodate wind and solar power, possibly lower electricity bills by optimizing electricity flow, and constantly reduce the carbon footprint.
The energy industry is reporting an increased demand for green technologies, particularly improved efficiencies that conserve power for utility customers. Suitor addressed the utilities needed to ensure critical applications have the bandwidth as well as scalability, cost efficiency, transport reliability and IP-based connectivity to facilitate integration of applications with the core IT functions within the utility.
To enable a successful deployment of smart grid devices in difficult-to-reach distribution and substation automation locations throughout the electric grid, secure, wide-area, broadband communications play a critical role. High-speed mobile data to the vehicle are needed by utilities for remote Intranet access, which include graphical information and mobile workforce management applications.
The telecommunications network at the core of the smart grid requires seamless integration of multiple wireline and wireless technologies to transport information between the utility operations center and the network components, Suitor told ITEXPO (News - Alert) attendees.
This morning, during an industry event dedicated to smart grids, one member of the board of directors of the SIP Forum (News - Alert) called smart grids “one of the most important communications initiatives of the past five years.”
The Smart Grid Summit – collocated with ITEXPO West 2009, held Sept. 1 to 3 in the Los Angeles Convention Center – continues this afternoon in room 511A of the center.

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Erin Harrison is a Senior Editor with TMC. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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