8 new smart grid solutions that tackle really big challenges


We're seeing a blistering pace of new smart grid offerings that tackle everything from switchyard failure prevention to energy storage to "surgical" demand response. In our latest installment of Discovery Showcase we're featuring eight that we thought you'd want to know about - from Silver Spring Networks, CURRENT, Siemens and others.


Energy storage

Kansas City-based electric company KCP&L is host to a new smart grid storage technology from Exergonix. The nano-battery cell, a one-megawatt battery, is in its first live test and is being evaluated by MRIGlobal at KCP&L's SmartGrid Innovation Park. The battery stores solar energy that is generated at the utility's SmartGrid Demonstration Area and is being used to provide energy during peak demand periods. The Exergonix system involves a lithium ion storage system said to incorporate a higher energy density battery and advanced electronic controls. While the technology obviously isn't ready for market, we thought it was interesting enough to share.


Surgical demand response


Siemens just debuted something it's calling a "surgical" demand response system, which it says is "is one of the first to surgically target demand reductions via substation, feeder, zip code or geographical location that allows utilities to reduce power loads at critical sections of their distribution network." The Demand Response Management System (DRMS) Version 2.0 can pinpoint a load overage or outage event, making it easier for utilities to distribute reliable power while reducing lifecycle costs at their facilities,” said Thierry Godart, president of Siemens Smart Grid Division in the U.S.  




Silver Spring Networks has added new features to what it describes as "the industry's first insight-as-a-service solution." SSN's SilverLink cloud services offerings now include the SilverLink Network Center and the SilverLink Meter Center. "Today's new SilverLink cloud services give utility networking and metering operations teams unprecedented operational insights from the network infrastructure down to the endpoint - with no new software required," said Don Reeves, senior VP of SSN's Smart Grid Services & Operations. Reeves added that as utilities implement more sophisticated and advanced applications throughout their smart grids, the SSN solution helps them "derive maximum leverage from their connected devices in a secure, efficient and reliable manner.


Targeting switchyard failures

A new handheld from EA Technologies - the PD Hawk - identifies partial discharge (PD) activity in high-voltage open terminal switchyard equipment. The company says its battery-powered PD Hawk can be used to scan a whole switchyard for potentially failing assets in just minutes -- including circuit breakers, isolators, disconnectors, surge arrestors, cable sealing ends and instrument transformers. ”The ability to spot problems and intervene before they cause outages will deliver a rapid return on investment, but the PD Hawk is also a uniquely valuable tool for gathering information on the condition of large numbers of switchyard assets, which is essential for planning maintenance and replacement programs," said EA Technology Director Neil Davies.



Combating energy theft and cyber attacks

Maxim Integrated has brought to market a smart meter system-on-a-chip (SoC) device designed to protect smart grid equipment from cyber attacks and energy theft. Referred to as Zeus, the device includes a built-in cryptographic module designed to ensure secure communications and a bootloader to stop unauthorized firmware modifications. "By combining metrology, security and communication, we provide a platform for any embedded smart grid equipment that needs to measure, to communicate, and to do it securely," said Kris Ardis, Maxim business director for smart grid products.

Integrated sensing and control

A new Intelligent Data Concentrator (IDC) product line from CURRENT gives utilities a way to leverage smart meter infrastructure for the support of advanced supervision, analytics and automation functions. "Our next-generation IDC solutions allow utilities to deploy smart metering infrastructure while gaining the added benefit of integrated sensing and control functionality," said CURRENT CEO Tom Willie. The IDCs combine PRIME-based power line communications and data concentrator functionality with enhanced supervision and energy balancing, which the company says enables recording harmonic distortions, detecting neutral current, performing sequence decomposition and instrumenting sags and swells.


Smart meter communications

Speaking of smart meters, Texas Instruments has released a modular and scalable Smart Meter Board (SMB) development platform that, as the company says, "supports one-phase to three-phase electricity meters with the smart grid's most prolific communications protocols." The SMB allows developers to include multiple wired and wireless communications protocols, including power line communications, near-field communication, WiFi and Zigbee Smart Energy Profile. Among the features: an open platform developers can use to customize their designs for further development and/or differentiation and support for low-power RF implementations connecting a meter to a home area network for short-range communication.


Demand management automation platform

Yes, it seems to be the season for new and upgraded smart grid platforms. IBS Group, a software developer and IT services provider in Central and Eastern Europe, has announced a new version of Luxoft's demand management automation platform. DMFusion 2.0 is the enhanced version of its software platform for smart grid solution vendors, and IBS says it provides new ways to deal with day-to-day chores such as non-technical distribution loss reduction, grid management and asset management. "The new version allows utilities and smart grid solution vendors to quickly identify problems within a grid and take corrective actions," said Michael Minkevich. Luxoft is a member of the IBS Group.


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