T&D World Magazine

MainNet Introduces Open Protocol Smart Grid Platform

MainNet Communications has introduced Solo, its new end-to-end AMI platform. The Solo platform is a future-proof system that includes meters with under-the-glass meter interface modules (MIMs); a secure, reliable, two-way broadband communication over power line and two-way wireless mesh communications network to the meter and home area network (HAN); and back-office software tools for AMI and a variety of other Smart Grid applications.

The Solo hybrid communication network combines MainNet's Ethernet-based power line communication system with an IEEE 802.15.4/ZigBee RF Mesh network to ZigBee-enabled meters. This network also serves as the infrastructure for additional smart grid applications, including in-home load switches, thermostats and smart appliances; and reading of other utility meters (e.g. water and gas). The communications network is based on open protocols and allows the utility to add applications by connecting any ZigBee-based or Ethernet- based device to the network, including distribution automation switches, sensors and other devices from a wide variety of standards-based products. The Solo hybrid communication units are housed in MainNet's compact, lightweight, weatherproof (IP67) and UL-certified module.

In December, 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007, which among other things called for a modernization of the electric distribution network "... to maintain a reliable and secure electricity infrastructure that can meet future demand growth... a Smart Grid".

The Act went further to define key characteristics of a Smart Grid which include:

  • Integration of distributed resources and generation.
  • Incorporation of demand response, demand-side resources and energy efficiency resources.
  • Deployment of "smart" technologies (real-time, automated, interactive technologies) for metering, communications concerning the grid operations and status and distributed automation.
  • Integration of "smart" appliances. - And, provision to consumers of timely information and control options.

These characteristics translate into the requirement for a single platform to control and communicate, two-way, in real-time, with a host of applications including the electric meter, customer appliances, distribution network elements and distributed generation facilities. But also necessary is a platform that will last for 15 or more years and have the capacity for additional applications. Using a broadband standards based communications which include IEEE 802.3 (Ethernet) and IEEE 802.15.4 (ZigBee), MainNet meets these utility requirements for Smart Grid of today and the future.

Solo is available for pilot installations and will be installed in several customer sites in the next few weeks. It will be commercially available in the third quarter of 2008.

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