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Power Line Communications (PLC)

Power line communications (PLC) is a critical energy control networking technology for Smart Grid, Smart Cities, and Smart Buildings applications. PLC has many advantages over other wired and wireless communication methods. However, PLC technology must overcome some significant technical challenges to be practical. Echelon’s experience and unique innovations allow us to offer the world’s most proven, open standard, and multi-application PLC technology.

Echelon power line transceivers can be used in the CENELEC A-band and CENELEC C-band. The A-band is reserved by law in CENELEC regulated countries for the exclusive use of utilities and their licensees. The C-band is available for consumer and commercial use without restriction, but a common access protocol and co-existence protocol is mandated. When used in A-band mode, Echelon's transceiver supports two channels within this band, one centered at 75 KHz and the other at 86KHz. WHen used in C-band mode, Echelon's transceiver also supports two channels, one centered at 115KHz and the other centered at 132KHz. The rationale for two channels is that if one is blocked, it is unlikely that the other is blocked by a harmonic of the power line impairment.

Advantages of PLC Technology

PLC is appealing because there is no need to run additional wires to powered devices. PLC can also work where radio frequency (RF) cannot. For example smart meters in the basement of a building basement are unlikely to be able to use RF to communicate with the neighborhood data concentrator. PLC communication on the other hand can traverse the power wires to reach the data concentrator.

For these reasons most utilities around the world have chosen PLC for their smart grid projects, and most cities have chosen PLC for their smart street light projects.

Echelon’s Proven, Open Standard, and Multi-Application PLC Technology

Many users are still skeptical about PLC because power lines are designed for delivering power reliably to end devices, not necessarily data. There are three primary challenges to reliable communications: high attenuation on the power line, the presence of noise sources on the power line, and channel distortion.

Echelon has developed and deployed the world’s most proven and reliable PLC systems. Amongst its many power line innovations, is a powerful power line meshing approach that adapts to time-of-day and to the noise sources present at those times. Using a minimal number of devices (meters, street lights, etc.) for repeating, the system computes the most efficient path for each packet to reach its final destination. This is a critical enabler for our smart metering and smart street lighting applications.

Our PLC has the advantage of being able to automatically and accurately identify the transformer and the phase that loads are connected to. This information is critical for grid efficiency.

Our customers around the world routinely communicate with their smart meters, street lights, and other power line devices well over 99% of the time, and further use the automated topology information to improve operations.

Open Standard

Our power line products implement open ANSI, IEC, ISO, ETSI and SAC standards for power line communications and control available from multiple sources around the world. Standards-based technology protects customers from being locked into a single supplier for a crucial smart grid technology.

Proven

Our power line communications for smart metering was proven by a very ambitious project undertaken by ENEL, Italy’s largest electric utility. ENEL installed power line-based smart meters for over 27 million customers between 2000 and 2004. This project, the first deployment of a nationwide smart grid, proved that our power line communications could be successfully deployed on a massive scale. By the end of the project, ENEL was reporting operational savings of over €500 million per year.