A Cooperative Smart Grid Infrastructure

Cooperation among infrastructure providers, particularly in rural areas, offers a potential for improving efficiency and creating the opportunity for new revenue sources. In this interview, Ralph Dunn of McMinnville Electric System, describes the combination Wi-Fi and fiber network that is the underpinning of the nascent McMinnville Electric System Smart Grid.

As Dunn suggests, this network promises to improve energy efficiency, as well as the accounting of electricity use. With an initial focus is on high-energy users, such as business and manufacturing, McMinnville Electric System also has plans to roll out the service to some 8,000 residential customers.

Data is wirelessly transmitted from Zigbee-enabled smart meters to collectors that communicate via Wi-Fi to Access Points that connect to pole-mounted, fiber-fed ONTs. Because of the wireless connection between the meters and the fiber network, installation is relatively fast.

Although it is still early, with a little less than 10 percent of homes having been equipped with smart meters, Dunn points to the future benefits of tying smart meters to a demand response system that gives customers and their appliances real-time feedback. This feature will allow customers to minimize their costs by controlling when they consume power (and helping McMinnville shave peak electrical load requirements).

Further, Dunn points out that the ability to do further enhance the offering, such as the creation of a widget on a TV channel, was a key consideration for their choice of their network partner, Ben Lomand Connect.

[Author’s note:  A variation of this article was originally published on the Calix Blog]