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Maxim to work on next-gen PLC spec

Posted: 18 Dec 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:communication powerline spec? automatic management meter? PLC solution?

Maxim Integrated Products Inc. has won a contract to define and develop a next-generation, powerline-communication (PLC) specification and solution for Electricite Reseau Distribution France (ERDF), a wholly owned subsidiary of the EDF (Electricite de France) Group. In partnership with Sagem Communications, Maxim will deliver an open PLC specification that facilitates the implementation of an automatic meter-management (AMM) infrastructure in France.

ERDF will deploy an AMM infrastructure throughout France to manage its complete electricity supply chain-from electricity suppliers all the way to consumers. This infrastructure will enable two-way communication between meters, sensors and switches using existing power lines, thus giving ERDF enhanced monitoring and control capabilities. It will also provide end-customers with greater visibility into their electricity usage and encourage demand-side management of electricity supplies. This advanced functionality will enable ERDF to deliver a new level of customer-centric services and promote energy conservation.

The completion of this project is expected to result in the replacement of more than 35 million meters and concentrators in France. Moreover, this implementation will function as a lighthouse project, illuminating the way for other countries as they renew their electricity-network infrastructure to meet the European Commission's energy mandates.

2020 targets
In January 2008, the European Commission announced a set of "20/20/20 by 2020" targets, proposing a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, 20 percent increase in renewable energy and 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020.

Because its existing electricity-network infrastructure is inadequate to meet these energy and sustainability imperatives, Europe has commenced one of the largest infrastructure renewals in its history. Indeed, the International Energy Agency estimates that the EU will invest over 500 billion euros in infrastructure renewal by 2030.

The deployment of an advanced communications infrastructure is a prerequisite to meeting the EU's 20/20/20 targets.

Two-way communications will provide electricity-network operators with intelligent monitoring and control capabilities. Operators will be able to monitor electricity consumption throughout the grid in real time, implement variable tariff schedules and set limits on electricity consumption to better manage peak loads.

In turn, consumers will have real-time visibility into their electricity consumption, thus promoting demand-side conservation. With the addition of variable tariff schedules, users will be encouraged to reduce electricity consumption during peak usage times.

Ultimately, intelligent network-management techniques provide a smarter solution for the environment. Rather than build more power plants to support worst-case scenarios (such as a week-long summer heat wave), network operators will be able to optimally use existing resources. At the same time, demand-side management will function as a form of indirect generation by better balancing the distribution of loads.

In the long term, this communications infrastructure will provide a basis for promoting distributed and renewable energy generation (e.g. wind and solar). To support the EU's SmartGrids initiative, the electricity network of the future will need to allow end-customers to harvest renewable energy and sell it back to the grid.

Maxim's PLC technology delivers cost-effective, two-way communication over power lines. Because it uses power lines, this technology allows network operators to implement highly reliable, secure communications using existing infrastructure. It eliminates the need to deploy a separate communications infrastructure to supplement the electrical-network infrastructure.

Earlier this year, Maxim introduced the MAX2990, the OFDM-based PLC modem operating over the 10kHz to 490kHz frequency range. The modem uses advanced, broadband networking techniques to achieve highly reliable and secure data communications under adverse channel conditions, and over longer distances than traditional narrowband PLC modems. This technology will be used as the basis for Maxim's PLC specification.

The new PLC specification is being developed as an open standard.

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