Smart Grid Communications

The utility industry is rapidly evolving with new technologies, increased regulation and a fast growing need for additional bandwidth. The need for more efficient utility substations and "smart grid" management is growing as worldwide electricity demand increases. Electric utility companies need power-line-monitoring systems to monitor and control energy consumption, cost, and quality, as well as to protect expensive equipment from power surges and severe storms.

The phrase "smart grid" conjures up different images for different people. Advanced meter infrastructure, consumer energy portals, ubiquitous sensors, geospatial information systems, customer information systems and outage management systems all come to mind. But, whatever the Smart Grid is or will ever be, one thing is certain: a secure and reliable, real-time two-way, high-speed communications infrastructure is an essential part of the Smart Grid reality. Using Experior Networks' MPLS backbone, utilities companies are able to cost effectively roll out new monitoring and management services to even the most remote locations with our optimal mix of fiber and wireless technologies.

Energy/Utility Overview

Driven by external and internal forces, the business of power utilities is changing. Regulatory bodies (such as NERC) are requiring better operational management and security. Market forces are putting pressure on operational expenses and driving the need to increase efficiency and scalability. Political leaders are responding to the demand for green initiatives and the need to deploy Smart Grid technologies. These drivers are forcing a modernization of the utility critical infrastructure.

  • Bandwidth between the WAN and substations, generation and transmission facilities and control centers is limited;
    • Only around 10% of substations facilities are fiber or IP radio fed;
    • Little if any bandwidth capacity exists past the substation – out to the consumer.
  • There are still multiple legacy interfaces in use and now new IP-enabled devices are coming on line;
  • Legacy devices require support and a migration plan into the Smart Grid;
  • NERC/CIP is requiring a move to parallel networks;
    • Intermixing critical infrastructure with corporate infrastructure traffic on the same network is risky;
    • A consistent, compliant, architecture has not been defined yet.
  • Homeland Security is requiring high bandwidth video surveillance for critical infrastructure.

Our future telecommunications networks must be ultra-reliable, act deterministically, and operate in harsh outside plant environments. Experior Networks has successfully deployed high bandwidth, IP networks in some of the harshest environments with outstanding results.

Supporting the Smart Grid - Critical Infrastructure Challenges

Utilities are in many different stages of critical infrastructure evolution. Some are aggressive in the adoption of new technologies while, overall, the industry is cautious. Regardless of where your network is, there is a common evolution path taking shape and manufacturers are designing and building solutions to help utilities along this path. This path has several important steps.

Step 1 - Implement a Standards-Based Solution

The future is too uncertain to bet on closed, proprietary solutions. Start migrating your network to standards-based technology solutions. Standards are fully supported by equipment manufacturers, which mean a wide market base, short lead times, readily available spares and, most importantly, the lowest cost solution.

Step 2 - Implement Ethernet Services

Packet services are not just different from TDM, they are really different. With that said, everyone knows that Ethernet is the service interface of the future, so you need to understand its use and its place in your network. Pilot-test limited Ethernet functionality while you develop your organizational expertise and determine your true traffic needs.

Step 3 - Deploy Data Transport Networks

In general, almost all corporate traffic is evolving to IP/Ethernet. But, more importantly for a utility, new Smart Grid applications, such as substation modernization and AMI/AMR, are all based on Ethernet. However, these new applications require a higher quality of service than typical corporate traffic. These applications require predictability – they need consistent, deterministic communications under even the most severe conditions.

Experior Networks' all MPLS network offers utilities sophisticated traffic engineering and QoS (Quality of Service) to ensure critical and latency sensitive traffic is always prioritized and delivered error free.

Step 4 - Build Out the Last Mile

In most networks, the last mile is the bandwidth bottleneck. Utility networks are no different – the bandwidth out to substations (and beyond) is often throttled-back by leased T1s or worse, dial-up lines. In addition, relying on the ILECs for critical infrastructure is at cross-purposes with the goals of the Smart Grid.

Experior Networks offers utility companies high bandwidth connectivity in even the most remote locations utilizing licensed, microwave digital radio links. Engineered with 99.999% and higher availability, our all IP radio links provide utility companies all the benefits of MPLS and the ability to seamlessly add additional bandwidth as needed without deploying additional capital.