The next big smart grid race? It starts at the end of the driveway (the distribution transformer)

The next big smart grid race? It starts at the end of the driveway (the distribution transformer)

Smart Grid to this day has been mainly about the meters.
Years ago, actual meter readers would read your meter for billing purposes. Then came AMR (Automated Meter Reading), which provided one-way directional communications to meter readers, who could be in the driveway or in their trucks and still collect the readings.

Then AMR transcended into AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure), which is meters with advanced communications technology that require no meter reader at all. AMI came in many flavors, using RF communications (both licensed and unlicensed bands), PLC (power line carrier) or even Wi-Fi based communications.  In North America, self-identifying, self-forming and self-healing mesh networks are quite popular.

What AMI was supposed to do

AMI enabled functions such as DR (demand response) and TOU (time of use) billing, and provided customers with even more insight into their consumption habits.  But the big thing AMI was supposed to do was enable a smart gridto enable different things such as distribution automation, VVO (volt/var optimization), CVR (conservation voltage reduction) and outage detection and restoration.  Naturally, smart meters do not equal a smart grid, but the mindset was that having an AMI infrastructure would enable the start of having a smart grid.

Nowthe time has come.  Millions of smart meters have been deployed globally.  Utilities are now looking at what else they can do with this meter network. They are pressuring AMI providers to deliver on the promise of adding things to their AMI network.  Sowhat is the next big thing related to this deployment?

Just look to your driveway

You need to look no further than the end of the driveway.  This is where the pole top or pad mount transformer resides.  A pole top (above ground) or pad mount (below ground) transformer powers anywhere from 5-8 homes and is the last voltage transition in stepping down voltage before it gets to your home.

There are so many things that can be learned from one of these transformerssuch as power quality, phase imbalance, theft (non-technical losses), CVR, VVO just to name a few.  Monitoring these devices can also strengthen an existing AMI mesh by providing additional nodes to build out the network at a sometimes elevated position.  It is a natural fit to focus on the end of the driveway on these devices as the next phase of the smart grid.  These assets may not be as expensive as a large power transformerbut they are absolutely critical and cause pain and suffering to customers and utilities when they go out of service.


Smart Grid Bulletin May 2018

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22 June 2018