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Smart grid has potential to solve power industry's toughest problems

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Utilities are set to benefit from smart grid technologies that have the potential to solve some of the greatest challenges companies will face.

These technologies will use an intelligent network infrastructure to maximize the efficiency of energy distribution through networks that are connected at all times, and link data-gathering devices with energy companies' assessment tools, AME Info reports.

According to the news source, electric utilities in North America have continued to grow in size, and their enterprises have become an endless network of distribution infrastructure. But despite this equipment, many utilities still have not optimized their operations due to a lack of monitoring devices that can pull data from operations. Utility managers are currently reporting difficulty seeing into their thousands of substations that comprise the electric grid, and still discover problems and outages through calls from customers, rather than innovative intelligent electronic devices that can identify problems and alert utilities.

These devices will allow utilities to gather information in real-time, which in turn will give way to untold amounts of data companies can use to improve operating efficiency. The deluge of information is not unlike big data other industries and businesses are using, and if their experiences are any indication of what utilities will experience, power companies will need to prepare for a barrage of new information. This will drive the need for improvements in utility IT infrastructure, which if done now - with the smart grid still in its infancy - will help improve the smart grid deployment process.

Further confounding the problem, utilities typically run all of their control operations on a mish mash of legacy network systems or non-unified equipment, which due to their disparate nature, prohibit communication between each other.

However, SUBNET, which has supplied solutions and technology to some of the largest utilities in North America, has developed products that introduce interoperability among disparate devices.

SUBNET's Unified Substation Communications solution allows companies to do away with installing multiple gateway devices needed to collect substation data, and instead uses a single intelligent server that can unify all information. The product, SUBNET SubSTATION Server, performs data collection and protocol conversion from a wide range of field devices, and replaces legacy Remote Terminal Units with the most up-to-date Substation Information Server available. The system allows utilities to quickly and cost-effectively update the entire server, rather than individual IEDs installed on the substation.

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