Designing Smart Metering for Utilities? Consider System-on-Module for Power Line Communications

Power Line Communication kits support wide range of power control applications

Texas Instruments has sponsored the following story

Advantages of Power Line Communication

Power Line Communication (PLC) is typically used to access smart power meters. Using this access, system engineers can determine a utility customer’s power consumption remotely as opposed to physically visiting the meter.

Because of the large number of meters being accessed, interfacing meters to a data concentrator and forwarding the data to a central host can save considerable time and money.

To develop the Power Line Communication (PLC) needed for smart metering, Texas Instruments (TI) suggests their SOMPLC-F28PLC83 single board System on Module (SOM). The board supports the PRIME and G3 access control layer protocols in all CENELEC frequency bands (A, B, C, and D).

Setting up your Power Line Communication

The SOM is ready for system engineers to integrate directly into their PLC project. The board’s only requirement for implementation is to provide AC line coupling circuitry.

The SOM is a physically small unit, approximately 1.5 by 2.0 inches. It includes an integrated analog front end (AFE) which provides the interface to the power line.

The SOM system can be programmed in one of two methods. The first method uses an XDS100 class emulator in conjunction with a system on module PLC downloading hex files. The second method uses either an XDS510 or XDS560 class emulator coupled with the Code Composer Studio (CCS) software package.

The SOM contains a variety of communications methods such as UART, SPI, I2C, and CAN. The board also has a 34-pin header to interface with other system modules. Systems engineers and other developers can quickly become familiar with the unit thanks to its TI PLC docking station (TMDSPLCKITV4), extensive documentation, and the PLC development kit.

Other Power Line Communication Applications

PLC has applications beyond data collection. For instance, smart power meters could be used for demand pricing, remote connect/disconnect, and outage management. As a result, smart meters are rapidly expanding their footprint around the world after initially being implemented in Western Europe and the U.S.

Another application that could use the PLC technology is in the conversion of sunlight into power via photovoltaic units solar cells. The PLC system can be implemented to control the solar unit’s feed into commercial power grids, small grids, or single dwellings.

The technology for power control would technically fall under TI’s microcontroller product family. However, the PLC could provide the necessary communications path and external examination needed to control the power system. This control communication could include commands for the power system to switch from supplying the grid to recharging the batteries.

Additionally, solar cell arrays performance could be optimized by controlling the output of individual panels as conditions warrant. This can be implemented using PLC between micro-converters and micro-inverters. By controlling at the panel level, rather than at the array level, the power output of the individual panel may be optimized without impacting the overall operation of the array. This is ideal when the array experiences shade, icing, or otherwise poor performance from an individual panel.

For virtually any application, the Power Line Communication kit comes packaged with all the TI documentation needed to get your products on the market fast. I would suggest giving the SOM a look.

Texas Instruments has sponsored this post. They have no editorial input to this post – all opinions are mine. Ray Floyd