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Linux adds flexibility to smart grid control nodes

Oct 21, 2013 — by Eric Brown 1,432 views

Echelon Corp. unveiled a distributed control node designed for electrical grid optimization. The DCN 3000 communicates with grid devices via OSGP power-line networking, reports back to the utility head-end via Ethernet or 3G, and enables downloading of Linux-based smart grid apps.

Echelon, which claims to have more than 100 million Echelon-powered devices installed worldwide, defines the DCN 3000 as a “ruggedized OSGP PLC [power line communications] Data Concentrator.” The DCN 3000 communicates with smart grid meters, sensors, and other devices via OSGP (Open Smart Grid Protocol), a protocol designed for ISO/IEC 14908 (“LonTalk”) power-line networking. OGSP is said to offer four times the bandwidth of second-generation RF networks.

Echelon DCN 3000 smart grid control node
(click image to enlarge)


The DCN 3000 incorporates Low-Voltage Grid Mapping (LVGM) technology for determining grid topology, and identifying connections and associations of meters, segments, and feeders. The system also reports data for use in GIS integrations, detailed load analysis, phase balancing, and other grid modernization applications.


Echelon smart grid architecture
(click image to enlarge)


The device works in conjunction with Echelon’s smart grid enterprise suite, called NES System Software. It communicates via Ethernet, UMTS/GSM or CDMA cellular, or if one chooses the USB or RS232 options, over WiFi. Hardware-accelerated security features include 128-bit authentication for PLC.

Embedded Linux adds adaptability, simplifies maintenance

The DCN 3000 enables utilities companies to “map” the low-voltage grid and monitor grid health. The device also can download updates and fixes for problems like line breaks, phase-specific outages, device failures, tampering, and risky voltage levels.

Unlike the DC-1000 system, with which it is backward compatible, the DCN-3000 runs a Linux operating system on an unnamed ARM processor, enabling utilities to develop applications that can be downloaded to the devices. Echelon says the apps can help utilities “quickly and reliably adapt to changing requirements, integrate new technologies, and progress toward their grid modernization goals.”

The DCN 3000 offers flexible placement options, letting customers “choose the lowest-cost installation point on the network or where WAN signal strength is highest,” says Echelon. Typical locations incude the distribution transformer, or beside an IEC or ANSI meter. Remote maintenance and firmware updates support “true zero-maintenance installation,” according to the company.

In addition to the Ethernet port and either USB or serial port (depending on model), an optical IEC 61107 interface is available for manual metering. The 10.27 x 6.67 x 2.62-inch box consumes 3-to-10 Watts, and can handle temperatures ranging from -40 to 70°C.

Specifications listed for the Echelon DCN 3000 include:

  • Processor — ARM (unspecified model)
  • Memory — Non-volatile
  • Wireless — UMTS/GSM or CDMA with optional external antenna; supports WiFi via serial or USB
  • Networking — Ethernet
  • Powerline networking:
    • ISO/IEC 14908 (LonTalk) over CENELEC “A” band (EN 50065.1)
    • OSGP and extended ANSI/EIA 709.1 protocol support
    • Supports up to 1024 NES electricity meters and 4096 associated M-Bus devices
    • Supports Star or Delta network input voltages
    • Voltage range phase to neutral — 96Vac to 276VAC
    • Maximum voltage range phase to phase — 480VAC
    • Phase coupling on all phases
    • Fast, single-message commissioning
    • Last Gasp backup power for 30 seconds of uptime
    • 99.7 to 100 percent reliability
  • Other I/O:
    • USB or RS232 port (depends on model)
    • IEC 61107 optical port
  • Other hardware features — Real-time clock accurate to ±0.5 seconds per day; status LEDs; DIN 43857 mounting with ANSI support
  • Security:
    • Hardware acceleration for security
    • 160-bit authentication for WAN ALA, 128-bit for WAN PPP, 128-bit for PLC
    • Security exception alerts on all failed authentications
    • Password and device level access control on optical communication
  • Power consumption — 3W (idle) to 10W (max.)
  • Other firmware features — LVGM; Multi-client Local Data Access (MLDA), with support for up to 16 external clients with secured read/write
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 70°C
  • Dimensions — 261 x 169 x 67mm (10.3 x 6.7 x 2.6 inches); translucent enclosure with pending IP66 protection
  • Operating system — Linux

“The DCN 3000 combines the performance of very high-cost proprietary data concentrators with an extensible, open-system approach that delivers unprecedented value and flexibility to utilities focused on improving customer satisfaction and managing an increasingly fluid environment,” stated Michael Anderson, senior vice president and general manager for Echelon’s Grid Modernization business segment.

Echelon has select early customer trials on the DCN 3000 planned for the end of 2013, with customers including the Smart Grid Gotland project, Broader availability of the trial program begins Feb. 2014, and general availability starts in March. More information may be found at Echelon’s DCN 3000 product page.

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