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Internet of the Future for Smart Grids

Siemens is cooperating with partners to find out how Internet-related technologies could be used to control smart grids.

As part of this effort, the global Siemens research organization Corporate Technology has become the technical coordinator of the EU’s FINSENY (Future INternet for Smart ENergY) project, in which energy and communications technology experts are examining what demands smart grids are likely to make on tomorrow’s Internet. One aim is to provide operators of low- and medium-voltage grids access to inexpensive and reliable communications networks and technologies — a key requirement if renewables are to play a more important role in the power mix. The first pilot applications are scheduled to be set up in 2013.

Because it is inexpensive and available in many places worldwide, the Internet is an ideal network not only for normal telecommunications but also for many industrial applications. However, the Internet standards, which in some cases are 40 years old, are often inadequate from a technological standpoint.

Smart grids are one example of a new area of application. Here, power networks are to ensure a stable and affordable energy supply. A sustainable, state-of-the-art power grid with many independent, widely distributed producers of renewable energy can only perform such a task if all of the participants are optimally coordinated with one another. When the sun is shining, for example, the system would use solar energy to charge the batteries of electric cars. It’s therefore essential that the communications medium is reliable. In today’s smart grids, the power lines themselves are often used to transmit control data for low- and medium-voltage systems. However, power lines are not suitable for transmitting large amounts of data over long distances. Communication through the current Internet would not be a satisfactory solution either, since some of the existing technology does not guarantee high enough levels of reliability or security. For example, when the grid load is high, the transmission of control information could be delayed or lost. Another difficulty is that today’s Internet protocols are not capable of providing adequate security against hackers’ attacks on the electricity supply.

Industrial organizations that address issues related to smart grids and/or smart energy can actively support the FINSENY project by becoming members of the Smart Grid Stakeholder Group.

Dr. Norbert Aschenbrenner | Siemens InnovationNews
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