Where Water Management Meets Electricity Consumption, and Other Notes from New Orleans

Michael Giberson

Phil Carson reports a few parting thoughts from last week’s IEEE Power and Energy Society’s Transmission and Distribution Conference in New Orleans.  One of those thoughts centered on the last-mile link up of communications and energy systems:

Marty Travers, president for telecommunications at Black & Veatch, reminded me that the “telecom” piece at electric utilities is really a toolbox full of options, from fiber optic cable to public wireless networks, from land mobile radio to microwave. These options are being combined in a mix-and-match strategy to meet the unique needs of various utilities in disparate geographies.

As “last mile” mesh networks employ machine-to-machine (M2M) modules, Travers sees “smart farming” as a potential market, where water management meets electricity consumption, literally out in the field.

The communications network overlay on the grid has been made possible, in part, by the simple fact that costs have been driven down, Travers told me. But the United States market remains a state-by-state proposition.

“Our theory is that [smart grid work] is driven by regulatory input from the state public utility commissions, so it’s still a state-by-state patchwork,” Travers said.

By the time I made it to New Orleans last week all of the IEEE PES 2010 fun was over, so there was nothing left to do but get rained on (Friday), trudge through the mud (Saturday), and enjoy the glorious sunshine (Sunday) of the first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. (A few more photos here.)