The national electric grid is considered to be an aging infrastructure. Since there has been a few cases of blackouts in the recent years, it has become known that the eletric grid cannot provide electricity reliably with its current technology. The electric grid needs to be modernized to support the large demand and to operate in an environmentally-friendly way. One way to achieve this is to increment the electric grid with a communication networks. The network will transfer information on electric consumption and generation at various sites on the grid. This information will guide decision on how to generate and route the electricity in the grid. This paradigm has been called the "Smart Grid".
The Smart Grid refers to a comprehensive renovation of the electric grid, including finding new ways to generate electricity. In particular, my research interest is in the communication network of the smart grid. One example of how communication can be used in the electric grid is advanced metering. Every customer's electric meter will be augmented with a communication module. The consumption of the customer will be measured and reported at preset intervals and transmitted to a central location. Knowing the consumption of the customers allows the electric company to provide a better and reliable service. The trends in the consumption can be observed to have a general idea on the consumption history. Also, the electric company can start additional generators if the consumption exceeds a threshold level. Knowing the level of consumption allows the electric company to generate as much electricity as needed and leads to fuel saving.
Relating to the example above, my research interest is to find a suitable communication technology to enable the advanced metering system. The communication technology can be wired or wireless. Also, the capacity of the modules needs to be known. It is most likely that the meters will have limited capabilities (such as sensor networks). Accordingly, the communication protocol will be lightweight. The topology of the metering application is a star topology, where many information sources (meters) relay their information to a sink (the electric company). Knowledge of the topology will be used in designing the network protocol.
The advanced metering application is one of many applications in the smart grid that will use the communication network. My research interest is to identify the role and dimensions of the smart grid communication network and to develop network protocols for it.
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