Smart electricity networks are a new concept for sustainable energy that aims at increasing the efficiency, safety and reliability of Distribution systems by enabling new ways of operating them so as to facilitate the large-scale integration of distributed and renewable energy resources.
Communications and ICT Infrastructures are critical to the achievement of this objective of the smart electricity networks. Interestingly, although many technological options for communications are on hand, a comprehensive set of ICT integrated technologies has not yet being made available to efficiently and cost effectively meet the requirements of intelligent electricity networks.
Thus, the subject is still a research issue and for this reason the present project focuses on overcoming this situation which creates now a bottleneck to the development of real-life smart electricity networks in practice. A combination of PLC and wireless technologies is the right choice to provide a comprehensive and economically viable solution to the communication networks for the SENs of the future, because it has the potential ability to reach the whole electricity network, be it underground, in-building or aerial, and its surrounding area.
Nevertheless such a combination is not just to putting both technologies side by side. They must be coordinated very intimately at several levels starting from the MAC (Medium Access Control) layer to allow for flexible and transparent topology control and quality of service (QoS) provision. More than this, given that both PLC and Wireless technology have been developed for other purposes rather than for SEN, the existing PLC and wireless technologies may not fit completely the requirements for SEN. Most possibly they will have to be adapted or tuned to the specificities of SENs. For example self-healing MV network is a very important requirement for SEN, which may not be adequately supported by existing broadband PLC technologies. Hence proper adaptation of those PLC technologies will be necessary. Given the number of options of existing PLC technologies and chip sets, it seems to be sufficient to adapt the protocol firmware to meet the requirements without changing physical layer HW (chip sets).
Among the wireless technologies, the focus should clearly be on Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) technology since this is the wireless technology designed to deal with things and sensors (Smart Electricity Networks are basically a net of things, sensors and actuators).
Another important aspect to be addressed in smart electricity network is the asset management given the large number of devices, both electrical and ICT, installed at utilities network. One most suitable technology for this asset management is the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), which will be considered and integrated with PLC and Wireless technology in the INTEGRIS system. RFID itself has multiple variants to be considered. Integrating RFID into the INTEGRIS system should also provide improved context awareness when putting together the data from sensors and from RFID/assets.