120 key stakeholders in the Smart Grid ecosystem, including utility companies, equipment and semiconductor manufacturers, system integrators, IT vendors, automotive companies, academics and French and European administration were gathered at Paris’ Musée des arts et métiers to discuss how PLC technology, based on the G3-PLC protocol, offers, beyond smart metering which is often the first application, a reliable, flexible and cost-effective route to providing electricity distribution network operators with intelligent monitoring and control capabilities. The highlight of the conference was a practical demonstration of Nexans’ innovative PLC solutions.
The idea of using power distribution lines for communications applications is not new, it has been around since the 1930s. What is new is the approach embodied in the G3-PLC communications protocol, utilizing PLC at both the low voltage and medium voltage distribution levels, with communication through transformers supporting IPv6 protocol to provide effective two-way links from the primary substation to the meter, with a high data bandwidth that is internet 2.0 compliant.
A key advantage of G3-PLC is that, compared with other wired and wireless architectures, it offers a simple, elegant and cost-effective approach to creating the robust and reliable communication networks essential for Smarter Grids. By communicating on the very power line infrastructure, it avoids the need to create new communication paths through obstacles such as large buildings, and particular topologies that can block wireless communications. So, installation and maintenance costs are lower and the utility can rely on its own network without having to subscribe expensive services from telecom operators.
“Discussions on Smarter Grids tend to focus on Smart Metering. But that is just one piece of the puzzle. PLC technology is in fact ideally suited for providing fully integrated network management of all the devices on a distribution grid, from production to consumption”, says Alain Robic, General Manager of Nexans Power Accessories France. “Nexans’ well proven capability in power accessories combined with our vast knowledge of existing electrical distribution infrastructure put us in the ideal position to take a leading role in developing innovative PLC products, for which we own a number of patents. This conference has been the perfect opportunity for us to show the world the real progress that has been made towards industrialized PLC solutions.”
Currently, Nexans has G3-PLC equipment deployed in several collaborative pilot projects with customers and partners in France and other countries. We benefit a lot from the experience sharing in an innovation field where energy, electronics and information technologies converge. The industrial phase is estimated to be one to two years in the future.