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New protocols will ramp up smart grid interoperability

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Friday, October 21, 2011

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has undertaken a massive project to create a smart grid by implementing smart devices into existing infrastructure. The DOE has calculated that the current grid is made up of 10,000 generating units that boast a generation capacity that exceeds 1 million megawatts, and is routed through more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines.

The sheer size and significance of the existing grid shows the grandeur of the refurbishment project to take place, according to Electric Light and Power.

However, utilities and technology providers are expected to use much of the same infrastructure, and integrate new technologies into the current system. In order for these configurations to mesh, the news source states, protocols that define the structure and transfer of information between systems must be developed.

Currently, utilities are drafting protocols that will provide interoperability between different vendors, essentially allowing different systems to speak the same language. While internet protocol suites have been developed and are widely used, they provide only lower level interoperability in the network and transports levels. New protocols will enable vendors to plug into an existing infrastructure through standardized components, the media outlet stated.

The need for interoperability has led utilities in North America to adopt the Distributed Network Protocol 3 (DNP3), which is frequently used in substation automation. DNP3 supports two-way communication that allow control centers to remotely monitor the processes of intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) and other functions. The protocol also defines an acceptable security model that promotes message authentication and encryption between the sender and receiver.

New protocols are being developed all over the world. In Brazil, the IEEE 2030 protocol will soon be launched when utiltiies and smart grid experts convene to discuss the state of the country's smart grid.

"This is the world’s first end-to-end, system-of-systems, foundational standard that has been created from the ground up to inform smart grid interconnection and interoperability," Dr. Claudio Lima, Vice-Chair of the IEEE P2030/TF3 Smart Grid Architecture work group, said. "There is no such standard in the world that covers smart grid from a systemic and interoperability perspective."

As the smart grid begins to roll out at home and abroad, utilities will need the expertise of industry professionals to integrate into the new grid in the most efficient way.

SUBNET Solutions Inc. provides that support, with software developed to promote interoperability between current IEDs, and offers utilities remote access control of infrastructure and substation automation. 

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