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Significant Broadband over Powerline Standard Is Approved

Together with interconnections standards for distributed grid resources, an important contribution to smart grid

1 min read
Illustration of powerlines

IEEE announced this week the ratification of the IEEE 1901 Broadband over Powerline standard, which allows for data rates of 500 Mbps in local area networks such as the home, where it could be one of the systems of choice for delivering information about energy usage back to energy providers and  to residents in real time, allowing them to adjust and regulate usage in light of the information.

The standard also could be the basis for distributing entertainment in trains or airplanes—or, at home, for installing a new music playlist in an automobile that’s being charged.

In Xcel’s smart grid city experiment in Boulder, Colo.—admittedly not a general success—BPL has been used in combination with radio links to transmit data from power meters, hot-water heaters, thermostats, and renewable-energy systems. To communicate with the energy provider, the data flows along the power lines for about a kilometer before it’s siphoned off the line and into an optical fiber or cellular-based backhaul system. That system, however, operates at rate of only about 5 Mbps—two orders of magnitude lower than what IEEE 1901 can provide in principle.

The 1901 standard seems destined to join the 1547 family of interconnection standards—the protocols and algorithms governing how to connect up distributed generation resources such as wind and solar as well as distributed storage devices like supercapacitors or battery banks—as one of the really critical smart grid enabling technologies.

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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