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Re: [RFI] Utility Automation

To: <rfi@contesting.com>
Subject: Re: [RFI] Utility Automation
From: "Tyler Stewart" <k3mm@comcast.net>
Date: Sun, 12 Sep 2004 10:20:44 -0400
List-post: <mailto:rfi@contesting.com>
Wireless network infrastructure for utility SCADA is available now and already in use at a small number of companies. It is a much more mature enterprise technology and it's getting cheaper to deploy every day.

My power company has been slowly building it's wireless SCADA network for several years and using it to control remote switches. However, we are now moving to build on this same infrastructure to do outage detection and automated meter reading.

For outage detection, you really only need one wireless meter per transformer, which I believe is about 1 in 5 customers in all but rural areas.

BPL still has some fairly insurmountable technical issues to make it economically viable and more importantly, reliable.

When a storm takes down power lines, BPL will not work. Wireless will. What could be more important to a power company? Reliability is the key and BPL fails the test.

Tyler Stewart

----- Original Message ----- From: "Ed -K0iL" <eedwards@tconl.com>
To: "'Dave Bernstein'" <dave.bernstein@comcast.net>; <rfi@contesting.com>
Sent: Saturday, September 11, 2004 8:41 PM
Subject: RE: [RFI] Utility Automation


Just playing devil's advocate here.

There are many different SCADA-type systems that could be developed and
used by utilities but all have one common thing that's missing today:
Network Infrastructure covering all customers. Sure, some small percentage
of customers today now have cable modems, DSL, and the like, but not ALL of
them. Not even most of them. Most of them have no reliable or easily
accessed data link into the home.

Here are just three of many possible schemes:

1. DA or Distribution Automation does not require connections to any homes
but it does to various control equipment (switches, cap banks, etc.). This
completely lacks any infrastructure today EVEN IF EVERY HOME HAD CABLE
MODEMS OR DSL. Some utilities have used wireless to do this in remote
areas like northern MN. But the coverage area is limited by wireless
issues and infrastructure costs of wide area radio systems capable of
handling wireless data.

2. Outage Detection is only useful if a large percentage or nearly every
home has a link to provide meaningful info to the utility. If only 10%-30%
have it, they won't be able to tell from the data if the outage is a lot of
down feeds to homes or a major outage caused by one single device or feed.
So they will still need to revert to the old way of handling this outage.
But if they know it's every home that's out on a given circuit, they can
now address that outage much faster and more efficiently than before. A
BPL Network with new meters everywhere (yes, expensive to do all at once!)
could provide meaningful outage detection data. This will take time to
migrate towards.

3.  Energy Mgmt could be done on a limited basis whenever a customer wants
it installed to get a lower electric rate.  This is mostly controlling
overall load through cycling customers' A/C & water heaters OFF/ON
depending on system load.  It could be made available today to the few who
have a reliable network connection (DSL or cable), but the typical person
who'd be interested in the savings (lower income households) probably do
not have DSL or cable network connections so BPL would reach these folks.
Watch out what the network providers might start doing once this becomes
widespread.  This is just speculation, but there might be additional ISP
costs to allow such commerical access to your home if there are different
rates for commercial than normal residential access.

With BPL, utilities will have "their own network" which they have control
over. No sudden additional charges by outside suppliers. That's a lot
more attractive in many ways. If they could've really done this years ago,
they would have.

For some utilities like public utilities, this may be the only reason they
seriously take a look at BPL since they may not be able to get into the
internet aspect due to regulatory restrictions.  Leasing bandwidth to an
ISP might be an option and would be icing on the BPL cake.  To hams it
doesn't justify polluting 40-50Mhz or more  of spectrum; but to
non-hams--the other 99.7% of the population, that's another story.  It's
going to get worse before it gets better, if it does.

73, de ed -K0iL
Omaha, NE

-----Original Message-----
From: Dave Bernstein
I've seen no description of how real-time utility control might work, and
can't comment on that aspect.

I don't at all discount time-of-day meter meter reading; my previous
described it as a "win-win" for everyone. Were power companies focused on
this, they could introduced it years ago using techniques like those
employed by pay-per-view suppliers.

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