Does The Pearl Street Station sound familiar? The date was September 4, 1882, when The Pearl Street Station, the first commercial power grid in the U.S. created by none other Thomas Edison1, came on-line. Since that time the U.S. power grid has grown to what we know of it today.
Today’s U.S. power grid is comprised of three smaller grids called interconnections2. The Eastern Interconnection operates in states east of the Rocky Mountains. The Western Interconnection includes the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains states. And the Texas Interconnected system is the smallest grid which covers most of Texas.
In the 20th century, as well as today although not to the same degree, utility companies have relied on field technicians to gather much of the data needed to provide electricity reliably. These technicians read meters, looked for broken equipment and measured voltages. Today many products are becoming available to the electricity industry to help modernize it via automated and computerized devices. Microchip Technology, a manufacturer of microcontrollers, memory and analog semiconductors, provides a whole suite of Utility Metering Solutions which will help modernize the U.S. power grid.
In the realm of Energy Measurement ICs, Microchip offers the MCP391X family. Devices within this family are highly accurate energy measurement analog front-ends with up to eight channels for single-phase and three-phase metering. And when paired with Microchip’s PIC microcontroller, the MCP391X offers a complete, flexible, and highly accurate solution for energy measurement in utility metering and power monitoring applications.
In the arena of Smart Meters: The latest meter designs are being driven by a number of factors including the migration from mechanical meters to electrical meters and the need to provide advanced intelligence and two-way communications. Microchip offers a complete portfolio of 8-, 16- and 32-bit microcontrollers, 16-bit digital signal controllers, energy measurement integrated circuits (ICs), analog components, Flash memory and serial EEPROMs. These devices allow customers to:
- Directly drive inexpensive LED and LCD displays
- Add wireless communication for automated meter reading
- Implement anti-tampering techniques
- Manage low-power designs
- Integrate real time clock for advanced billing schemes
- Improve accuracy and simplify meter calibration
Because the Smart Meter is becoming the hub of Smart Grid communication between the home and the utility provider, enabling communication within the grid is key for monitoring and controlling energy resources. Microchip provides platforms which enable wireless communication of ZigBee networks including the Smart Energy Profile, Wi-Fi Connectivity and Sub-GHz AMI solutions.
And, believe it or not, wired communication in addition to wireless communication will continue to be needed for the Smart Grid. Power line repeaters collect data from power meters using mature wired communications such as RS-485. This data is transmitted, processed, and then re-transmitted to utility companies by means of other wired technologies including Ethernet. The dsPIC Digital Signal Controller is well-suited for low-cost energy meters, offering a fast and efficient CPU, DMA channels and small package footprints. The PIC32MZ/X families have the performance for processing automated meter reading data as well as a full-suite of connectivity features including UARTs, ADCs, SPIs, high-speed USB, CAN, Ethernet, I2C, EBI and SQI.
In the domain of memory products, Microchip offers a broad range of memory devices including SRAM, EEPROM and Flash. These devices can meet the requirements of any metering application given their variety of densities of which can operate over both wide voltage and wide temperature ranges in very small packages. SPI-compatible Serial SRAM devices support unlimited endurance and fast Write times. When non-volatile memory is needed, Microchip offers their very high-endurance Serial EEPROMs which have the highest Erase/Write cycle endurance in the industry. These devices are available with I2C, SPI or Microwire serial interfaces to support any microcontroller serial port. For applications that require a higher-density memory, the SuperFlash SPI, SQI and Parallel Flash products are ideal solutions. For designs that require a bootloader, SPI Flash can be used to store the bootloader making it available upon power-up. The higher bandwidth SQI Flash and Parallel Flash have this same capability for applications that require “execute-in-place.” And the SuperFlash products are cost-effective nonvolatile memory solutions, offering industry leading features along with fixed and fast program/erase times, ultra-low power consumption, high-endurance and excellent reliability.
Microchip has made available many development boards and evaluation kits for these utility metering and power monitoring applications. These low-cost and easy-to-learn development systems are designed to save you time, money, and engineering resources.
By Nick Davis