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Utilities saving money through smart distribution methods

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The smart grid is unfolding at a rapid clip, and to support the highly innovative technologies that are being developed to increase utilities' operating efficiency, a new generation of communication platforms is emerging.

Wireless communication systems or traditional copper wire infrastructures have already been used in several smart grid deployments, but one communication method - fiber optics - has even more potential to deliver what the smart grid needs, so long as the kinks can be worked out, the Australian Broadcasting Company reports.

According to the news source, fiber optics hold great promise for the smart grid, but not in the way the public may believe. Flashy smart meters, which give residents the ability to monitor their own power usage in real time, often steal the spotlight, but the true smart grid technology is being developed behind the scenes. It is here in the inner workings of the electric grid that fiber optics could thrive, as such a network could help intelligence spread throughout the grid, reducing overall consumption, and in turn, the costs of wholesale electricity and a utility's overall carbon footprint.

An admittedly lofty goal, but the benefits of fiber optics are manifold. Distribution automation, which allows utilities to switch energy loads around depending on demand, could be greatly improved by fiber optics, as well as intelligent electronic device management, which involves gathering data from field devices in real time for analysis by the utility.

According to the news source, one of fiber optics' greatest selling point is its ability to improve reliability. There are relatively few case studies of how well fiber optics can create a more reliable grid, however one project in Tennessee is paving the way and setting an example for other utilities to follow.

Chattanooga's EPB first started installing its fiber optic network in 2005, and although the project is far from completion, some strong data has already come out of the installation. According to the media outlet, the network now has 415 connected intelligent power network switches, with 31,000 households using fiber broadband services.

With more utilities using a wide range of communication platforms, utilities are turning to SUBNET for its innovative interoperability solutions that connect any grid device to any business platform through any means of communication, be it fiber optics, wires or satellite. 

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