IEEE Progresses P1901.2 Low Frequency Narrowband Power Line Standard For Smart Grid Applications

May 30, 2011 by Jeff Shepard

IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) announced the IEEE P1901.2 Low Frequency (less than 500 kHz) Narrow Band Power Line Communications Working Group (WG) made significant progress with the draft standard during its recent meeting in Las Vegas, 11-15 April. To continue the momentum, the diverse cross-industry body of members will assemble again at the next IEEE P1901.2 WG meeting being held 6-10 June 2011 in Sicily, Italy. Details of the meeting can be found by on the P1901.2 Working Group page.

IEEE P1901.2 draft standard specifies communications for low frequency (less than 500 kHz) narrowband power line devices via alternating current and direct current electric power lines. It supports indoor and outdoor communications over low voltage line (between transformer and meter, less than 1000V), through transformer low-voltage to medium-voltage (1000V up to 72kV) and through transformer medium-voltage to low-voltage power lines in both urban and in long distance (multi- kilometer) rural communications. This standard addresses grid to utility meter, electric vehicle to charging station, and within home area networking communications scenarios. Lighting and solar panel power line communications are also potential uses of this communications standard.

IEEE P1901.2 will also implement a coexistence mechanism that will be activated in cases where single carrier technologies are already deployed.

The IEEE P1901.2 standard is designed to benefit global utilities, electric meter manufacturers, medium and low voltage smart grid equipment manufacturers, manufacturers of automotive pluggable electric vehicles (PEV) and pluggable hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE) manufacturers, lighting equipment manufacturers, and consumer appliance manufacturers.

IEEE P1901.2 is designed to provide the new benchmark of performance and reliability while offering interoperability with the existing "PRIME" and "G3-PLC" OFDM technologies, which have been already chosen by the world’s largest energy providers such as IBERDROLA and ERDF. This decision was made by the IEEE P1901.2 Working Group during the April meeting to provide a smooth transition from already established OFDM technologies to the IEEE P1901.2 based products. As such the standard specifies different modes that offer interoperability with PRIME and G3-PLC. When operating in the full 500 KHz band the standard offers only one operating mode that is specified in the main body of the IEEE P1901.2 standard.

During the recent meeting in Las Vegas the IEEE P1901.2 WG made a major step forward by agreeing to adopt synchronous beacon and specific implementations of a coherent modulation. These decisions enable interoperability between Differential and Coherent modes of operation. The group is continuing to develop a single PHY/MAC implementation for the band of up to 500 kHz with the goal to enable wide adoption of interoperable solutions based on IEEE P1901.2 standard. Most of the technical decisions were made with an extremely high degree of consensus among the WG members.

More news and information regarding the latest developments in Smart Grid electronics can be found at Darnell’s SmartGridElectronics.Net.