How cable can help smarten up the power grid

Even though there have been advancements in sensors and discussion surrounding the Industrial Internet of Things (IIot), there remains a lack of visibility into the electrical grid regarding power ...

Energy

Even though there have been advancements in sensors and discussion surrounding the Industrial Internet of Things (IIot), there remains a lack of visibility into the electrical grid regarding power availability and quality in the last mile of distribution, Scott Caruso, CableLabs' director for strategic ventures, wrote in a recent blog post. He noted that 90% of outages occur in the distribution grid, and many utilities report that the primary way they discover these outages is through customer reports.

This does not have to be the case, Caruso said. CableLabs is incubating a project called Gridmetrics that is involved with uniting a grid of sensors (already in place) on the last mile of the electrical grid that are connected by a private, high-speed, low-latency network. The data from these sensors could be aggregated and used to offer insight into power quality and availability. Incidentally, no customer premises equipment (CPE) is accessed.

"Gridmetrics aggregates data about the power grid via agreements with participating cable operators; however, not all operators are participating at this early pilot stage of Gridmetrics. The Gridmetrics team is building systems to ingest, transform and deliver the data," Caruso said.

In one example of how Gridmetrics aggregated data can be leveraged, a partnership has been formed with National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL) as part of an R&D collaboration called Situational Awareness of Grid Anomalies (SAGA). This is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response (CESER), and the aim is to help ensure the security of the electrical grid by identifying anomalies.

"SAGA is an R&D effort to field-validate integrated cyber-physical data from cable broadband power systems to enhance visibility into the distribution grid, specifically for creating situational awareness by detecting patterns of operation indicative of cyber incidents," Caruso said.

There are other use cases, however, for the type of data Gridmetrics could provide. These span across sectors including public safety, insurance, smart cities, and, of course, power utilities. For them, the Gridmetrics data set could be used for outage detection/management, mutual assistance resource acquisition, grid safety and power trading.

"Today there is neither a formal structure nor a technology solution in place for power utilities and communication companies to provide coordinated response of power outage events. Gridmetrics could be that tool - an automated, low touch, neutral data platform that is mutually beneficial to each industry," Caruso said.

The value comes from the ability to intersect two vast networks, Caruso said. The cable industry has already transitioned from a one-way network to a two-way network, and the power utilities are currently undergoing this change as renewable resources are requiring them to control the flow of electrons upstream as well as downstream.

"A significant challenge is convincing utilities to shift some mindshare to leveraging an out-of-band third party dataset to provide insights into the distribution portion of the grid," Caruso said.        

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