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Paving the way for grid modernization

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, June 25, 2012

After years of promises and hype, smart grid deployment will soon transition into the next phase of development, in which utilities and businesses will begin to see a return on investment and see the benefits of such projects.

That is, as long as utilities properly go about putting together the rest of the puzzle pieces, according to Ron Willoughby, formerly of KEMA Inc. and now an independent consultant.

According to Intelligent Utility, Willoughby recently wrote an article on the increasing complexity of the smart grid, and noted that while the "electric power has been dominated by customer solutions" for sometime, now, "integration of the pieces has become the dominant challenge," and the huge amount of data that will come from so many intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) will need to be organized into "practical, efficient and actionable instructions."

Later, Intelligent Utility sat down with Willoughby to further discuss his ideas, where he added clarification to his belief that although there is huge hype surrounding the benefits of the smart grid, including greater reliability, better management of fault data and overall more efficient systems processing, utilities will remain in a transition period until new devices are successfully added to legacy systems.

This, he says, points to a larger issue about integration in "pre- plug-and-play world" that was constructed entirely on global standards.

"There's a big challenge for manufacturers here," Willoughby said. "Depending on the manufacturer, they've left their proprietary technology in place and provided interfaces to talk to the outside world. Having been in manufacturing I can say the situation is difficult. On-going revisions to control software is not easy. Because as manufacturers advance their product offerings by developing new features, they still have to support legacy systems."

Willoughby went on to say that there will need to be a transitionary period for manufacturers to develop new programs. End-users of these products will also see a major transition, as they will have such an investment in legacy equipment and the training that goes along with such products, no one will be able to afford full-scale replacements.

"So, you've got to find a way to make new technologies work with old," he said.

SUBNET has developed products and solutions that can be integrated with legacy systems, ensuring installation is neither time consuming nor costly. The products allow utilities to collect data from a wide range of IEDs, and also help utilities adhere to stringent NERC CIP regulations. 

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