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New IEEE standard may kickstart resurgence of power line communications

Bangalore September 2 2013: Power line communication (PLC)  --using the electricity infrastructure for data transmission -- has been around for nearly 2 decades -- only now it seems to be  experiencing a renaissance in the context of  the Smart Grid.   It is particularly useful in the integration of intermittent renewable energy sources into the electricity supply chain.

PLC technology  increases reliability  in smart grid applications, including smart electrical meters, lighting, solar, electric car charging, smart appliances, home automation, intelligent building control, and networking.

IEEE has just announced  a drat standard for Low-Frequency (less than 500kHz) Narrowband Power-Line Communications (PLC) for SmartGrid Applications  which is sure to give a fillip to PLC developments in the smart grid space. Once approved, the standard is intended to specify a new generation of PLC technology for transmission frequencies of less than 500kHz and addresses a host of existing and emerging smartgrid applications

Comprised of three foundational components—physical/medium access (PHY/MAC) layer, coexistence and electromagnetic-compatibility (EMC) requirements—IEEE P1901.2 supports the balanced and efficient use of the PLC channel by all classes of low-frequency and narrowband devices. The draft standard helps define detailed mechanisms for coexistence among standard technologies operating in the same frequency band.

In addition, the draft standard addresses low-frequency, narrowband PLC over low-voltage lines of less than 1000V between transformer and meter, through transformer low-voltage to medium-voltage (1000V up to 72kV) and through transformer medium-voltage to low-voltage power lines in both urban and in long-distance (multi-kilometer) rural communications. IEEE P1901.2 is also designed to support lighting and solar-panel PLC. 

 “The smart grid industry was in need of a solution for 21st-century applications and services, and this standard, once completed, will allow for the flow of technology that meets those global requirements,” said Jim LeClare, chair of the IEEE Low-Frequency Narrowband Power-Line Communications Working Group and principal member technology staff, Energy Solutions for Maxim Integrated Products. “IEEE P1901.2 is intended to facilitate the growth of the smartgrid market. Global industrial communication projects have been moving ahead quickly based on low-frequency, narrowband power-line communications with limited, unified guidance from standards. IEEE P1901.2 brings together all the necessary components needed for the industry to move forward more cost-effectively and efficiently.”

Here are links to useful collateral on  PLC-SmartGrid  technology

IEE release
TI: Engineering a smarter grid  Texas Instruments note
 Power Line Communications for Smart Grid Applications Journal of Electrical and Computer Engineering 2013

Modern power line communication for the smart grid EE Times