Cisco might have have only launched its Connected Grid range of solutions focused on the electricity sector in May 2010, but the global networking giant has already picked up a large deal locally to supply NSW utility EnergyAustralia.
In a statement issued this week, EnergyAustralia revealed that up to 200 of its substations would be fitted with the new Cisco kit, which are basically purpose-built, ruggedised routers and switchers — and they’ll need to be tough, withstanding temperatures up to 65 degrees in EnergyAustralia’s base stations.
“We’ve asked Cisco for communications equipment tough enough for very hot and humid conditions in base stations as part of our transformation of the electricity network into a smart grid,” said EnergyAustralia managing director George Maltabarow in a statement.
The electricity chief said the new platform would allow EnergyAustralia to better monitor and pinpoint faults in its network and remotely restore power, and would also include what he described as “cyber security perimeter devices” to protect each substation.
The Cisco kit will also enable “enhanced mobile computing” for staff in the field — which could mean the provision of Wi-Fi access through the routers — and will help the utility manage the increased number of renewable power generators which it is building at the street level.
“It gives us new ways to connect a range of devices inside substation, such as data loggers and CCTV, at same time as identify, isolate, diagnose and repair faults in a smarter, faster way,” said Maltabarow, noting EnergyAustralia was building ten major new substations every year at the moment.
The equipment will also be specifically installed inside 25 substations as part of EA’s ‘Smart Grid, Smart City’ demonstration project — an initiative which EA is carrying out in Newcastle, with a $100 million injection of funds from the Federal Government to assist in the creation of a true ‘smart grid’ environment.
Smart grid is a term being used by the utility sector that refers to the ability to better monitor energy usage in the electricity network and create much higher efficiencies than is currently possible. IBM is the key technology partner in the EA initiative.
“With our Connected Grid solution at the core of its substations, we look forward to helping EnergyAustralia achieve its business and operational goals to build a smarter and more reliable electricity grid,” said Cisco Australia and New Zealand chief Les Williamson in a separate statement.
However, Cisco and IBM might not get their own way entirely when it comes to the implementation of smart grid technology in the Australian market.
Chinese supplier Huawei flew a US-based smart grids expert out to Australia for the Smart Grids Forum in Sydney this week, which was also attended by Cisco, EA, NBN Co and others. The event represented the first time the company has spoken in public in Australia regarding its ambitions in the smart grid market.