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Application of Wireless Sensor Networks in Smart Grid ~Opportunities, Challenges & Technologies Available (A Survey)

Piyush Ghune, Ruchita N. Ghune, Pawan Pandey & Pushpendra Mishra

Malwa Institute of Technology E-mail :,,,

Abstract Manual collection of data is very difficult & time consuming task and may be infeasible if the data terminals (nodes) are unreachable. Therefore, a wireless update mechanism is needed. The mentioned task is achieved by using Wireless sensor network. Wireless sensor networks (WSN) applications include geophysical/structural/habitat monitoring, security, disaster area or battlefield information collection. The collaborative and low-cost nature of wireless sensor networks (WSNs) brings significant advantages over traditional communication technologies used in todays electric power systems. Recently, WSNs have been widely recognized as a promising technology that can enhance various aspects of todays electric power systems, including generation, delivery, and utilization, making them a vital component of the next-generation electric power system, the smart grid. However, harsh and complex electric-power-system environments pose great challenges in the reliability of WSN communications in smart-grid applications. This paper starts with an overview of the application of WSNs for electric power systems along with their opportunities and challenges and opens up future work in many unexploited research areas in diverse smart-grid applications along with the wireless technologies available. Keywords Communication technologies, quality-ofservice (QoS), Smart Grid, wireless sensor networks (WSNs). I. INTRODUCTION

overaged, and fragile electricity infrastructure [17]. In India, for example, the electricity sector in India had an installed capacity of 209.276 Gigawatt (GW) as of October 2012, the world's fifth largest [1]. Over 300 million people in India have no access to electricity. Of those who do, almost all find electricity supply intermittent and unreliable [2]. The increasing electricity demands, together with the complex and nonlinear nature of the electric power distribution network, have caused serious network congestion issues. The network congestion and safety-related factors have become the main causes of several major blackouts that happened in recent years. In addition to the overstressed situation, the existing power grid also suffers from the lack of pervasive and effective communications, monitoring, fault diagnostics, and automation, which further increase the possibility of region-wide system breakdown due to the cascading effect initiated by a single fault. Todays electric power distribution network is very complex and ill-suited to the needs of the 21st Century. Among the deficiencies is a lack of automated analysis, poor visibility, mechanical switches causing slow response times, lack of situational awareness, etc. [3]. These have contributed to the blackouts happening over the past 40 years. Some additional inhibiting factors are the growing population and demand for energy, the global climate change, equipment failures, energy storage problems, the capacity limitations of electricity generation, one-way communication, decrease in fossil fuels, and resilience problems [4]. To address these challenges, a new concept of next generation electric power system, a smart grid, has emerged. The smart grid is a modern electric power-grid infrastructure for improved efficiency, reliability, and safety, with smooth integration of renewable and alternative energy sources, through automated control and modern communication technologies [6]. In the smart grid, reliable and online information becomes the
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The global climate change and rapidly growing populations over the past decades have generated increasing demands for abundant, sustainable, and clean electric energy on a global basis. However, in most countries today, the increasing energy demand means an even heavier burden on the already overstressed,


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key factor for reliable delivery of power from the generation units to the end users. The impact of equipment failures, capacity limitations, and natural accidents and catastrophes, which cause power disturbances and outages, can be largely avoided by online power system condition monitoring, diagnostics, and protection. In this respect, the intelligent and lowcost monitoring and control enabled by online sensing technologies have become essential to maintain safety, reliability, efficiency, and uptime of the smart grid [7], [8], [9]. The existing grid suffers lack of monitoring and diagnostic systems & communication capabilities, while a smart power grid infrastructure is full of enhanced sensing and advanced communication and computing abilities, as illustrated in Fig. 1. Different components of the system are linked together with communication paths and sensor nodes to provide interoperability between them, e.g., distribution, transmission and other substations, such as residential, commercial, and industrial sites.

As one of the main objectives, this paper gives a first glimpse and opens up future work in many unexploited research areas of applying wireless sensor networks (WSNs) in smart grid by providing an overview of the opportunities and challenges. The collaborative operation of WSNs brings significant advantages over traditional communication technologies, including rapid deployment, low cost, flexibility, and aggregated intelligence via parallel processing. In these systems, wireless multifunctional sensor nodes are installed on the critical equipment of the smart grid and monitor the parameters critical to each equipments condition. Such information enables the smart-grid system to respond to the changing conditions in a more proactively and timely manner. In this regard, WSNs play a vital role in creating a highly reliable and self-healing smart electric power grid that rapidly responds to online events with appropriate actions. The remainder of this paper is organized as follows. In Sections II and III, the opportunities and challenges of applying WSNs in smart grid are reviewed, respectively. In Section IV, an overview of communication technologies available for smart grids is presented. In Section V some of the smart grid standards have been presented. Finally, this paper is concluded in Section VI. II. OPPORTUNITIES TO APPLY WSNS IN SMART GRID Power generation, power delivery & power utilization are the three major substations of Electric Power System. Recently, WSNs have been widely recognized as a promising technology that can enhance all these three subsystems, making WSNs a vital component of the next-generation electric power system, the smart grid. In this section, an overview of a few potential opportunities of applying WSNs in smart grid is discussed. Note that, depending on the application requirements, other wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi and WiMAX, and power line communications can also be utilized in some of the smart-grid applications, such as in long-range backhaul communications in advanced metering applications. A. WAMR (Wireless Automatic Meter Reading) Recently, WSNs have provided a low-cost solution that enables WAMR systems for electric utilities. Overall, WAMR systems offer several advantages to electric utilities, including reduced electric utility operational costs by eliminating the need for human readers and online pricing models based on the online energy consumption of the customers [2] and for asset protection through advanced remote monitoring [7], [10]. However, WAMR systems require reliable twoISSN (Print) : 2319 2526, Volume-2, Issue-5, 2013

Fig. 1. Smart grid architecture increases the capacity and flexibility of the network and provides advanced sensing and control through modern communications technologies. In the smart grid, reliable and real-time information becomes the key factor for reliable delivery of power from the generating units to the end-users. The impact of equipment failures, capacity constraints, and natural accidents and catastrophes, which cause power disturbances and outages, can be largely avoided by online power system condition monitoring, diagnostics and protection [7]. To this end, the intelligent monitoring and control enabled by modern information and communication technologies have become essential to realize the envisioned smart grid.


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way communications between electric utilities and the customers metering devices. WSN technology addresses this requirement efficiently by providing lowcost and low-power wireless communications. Most utility and billing companies have recognized that, with the invention of low-cost low-power radio sensors, wireless communication is one of the most cost-efficient way to collect utility meter data. B. Remote System Monitoring and Equipment Fault Diagnostics In electric power systems today, safety and reliability have become the most critical tasks among all other tasks. System breakdown caused by component faults, environmental factors, or mis-operation could cause huge economical losses and public concerns. For example, as the latest blackout in July at India occurring as two separate events on 30 & 31 July 2012 that left 620 Million Indians about 9% population of world or half of the Indians population in dark & had spread in 22 states [1]. Moving down to the facilities, the average unscheduled system downtime caused by unexpected equipment failures in various industries range from 70 000 to 200 000 U.S. dollars per hour [10]. It is commonly known that many of these power-grid and facility breakdowns could be avoided or at least largely alleviated if the critical system components are better monitored and the protection devices are better coordinated. However, the fact is that most of todays electric power infrastructure has only the minimal level of monitoring and automation and the majority of industries critical equipment, such as motors less than 200 hp, are not even monitored. One of the main reasons of such dilemma is that the existing remote sensing, monitoring, and fault diagnostic solutions are still too expensive to be applied in a large-scale and pervasive basis. With its low cost as one of the main advantages, WSNs provide a feasible and cost-effective sensing and communication solution for remote system monitoring and diagnosis systems. Efficient monitoring systems constructed by large scale deployment of smart sensor nodes can provide complete information on the conditions of system components, including generation units, transformers, transmission lines, motors, etc., in a remote and online manner [11], [12], [17]. With the online system monitoring and system-level coordinating controls and protections, a single system contingency in the power grid or facility could be detected and isolated before it causes cascading effects and results to more catastrophic system breakdowns. III. CHALLENGES TO APPLY WSN IN SMART GRIDS The major technical challenges of WSNs in smartgrid applications can be outlined as follows.

A. Harsh environmental conditions In electric-power-system environments, the topology and wireless connectivity of the network may vary due to link failures. Furthermore, sensors may also be subject to RF interference, highly caustic or corrosive environments, high humidity levels, vibrations, dirt and dust, or other conditions that challenge performance [7], [13]. These harsh environmental conditions and dynamic network topologies may cause a portion of sensor nodes to malfunction or render the information they gather obsolete [11]. B. Packet errors and variable link capacity In WSNs, the bandwidth of each wireless link depends on the interference level perceived at the receiver, and high bit error rates (BER=102106) are observed in communication. In addition, wireless links exhibit widely varying characteristics over time and space due to obstructions and noisy environment in electric power systems. Hence, the bandwidth and communication latency at each wireless link are location dependent and can vary continuously. This makes it very hard to meet QoS requirements [11]. C. Resource constraints The design and implementation of WSNs are constrained by three types of resources a) energy; b) memory; and c) processing. In general, sensor nodes have limited battery energy supply [11]. For this reason, communication protocols for WSNs are mainly tailored to provide high energy efficiency. D. Security Secure information storage and transportation are extremely vital for power utilities, especially for billing purposes and grid control [14]. To avoid cyber attacks, efficient security mechanisms should be developed and standardization efforts regarding the security of the power grid should be made. E. System Reliability, Robustness and Availability Providing the system reliability has become one of the most prioritized requirements for power utilities. Aging power infrastructure and increasing energy consumption and peak demand are some of the reasons that create unreliability issues for the power grid [16]. Harnessing the modern and secure communication protocols, the communication and information technologies, faster and more robust control devices, embedded intelligent devices (IEDs) for the entire grid from substation and feeder to customer resources, will significantly strengthen the system reliability and robustness [16]. The availability of the communication structure is based on preferred communication technology. Wireless technologies with constrained
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International Journal on Advanced Computer Theory and Engineering (IJACTE)

bandwidth and security and reduced installation costs can be a good choice for large-scale smart grid deployments [14]. On the other hand, wired technologies with increased capacity, reliability and security can be costly [14]. To provide system reliability, robustness and availability at the same time with appropriate installation costs, a hybrid communication technology mixed with wired and wireless solutions can be used. F. Scalability A smart grid should be scalable enough to facilitate the operation of the power grid [3]. Many smart meters, smart sensor nodes, smart data collectors, and renewable energy resources are joining the communications network. Hence, smart grid should handle the scalability with the integration of advanced web services, reliable protocols with advanced functionalities, such as selfconfiguration, security aspects. IV. COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES AVAILABLE FOR SMART GRID A communications system is the key component of the smart grid infrastructure [8], [11], [12]. With the integration of advanced technologies and applications for achieving a smarter electricity grid infrastructure, a huge amount of data from different applications will be generated for further analysis, control and real-time pricing methods. Hence, it is very critical for electric Technology GSM GPRS 3G WiMAX PLC ZigBee . A. ZigBee ZigBee is a wireless communications technology that is relatively low in power usage, data rate, complexity, and cost of deployment. It is an ideal technology for smart lightning, energy monitoring, home automation, and automatic meter reading, etc. ZigBee and ZigBee Smart Energy Profile (SEP) have Spectrum 900-1800 MHz 900-1800 MHz 1.92-1.98 GHz 2.11-2.17 Ghz (Licensed) 2.5 GHz,3.5 GHz,5.8 GHz 1-30 MHz 2.4 GHz-868916MHz Data Rate Up to 14.4 Kbps Up to 170 Kbps 384Kbps-2Mbps Upto 75 Mbps 2-3 Mbps 250 Kbps

utilities to define the communications requirements and find the best communications infrastructure to handle the output data and deliver a reliable, secure and costeffective service throughout the total system. Electric utilities attempt to get customers attention to participate in the smart grid system, in order to improve services and efficiency. Demand side management and customer participation for efficient electricity usage are well understood, furthermore, the outages after disasters in existing power structure also focus the attention on the importance of the relationship between electric grids and communications systems [11]. Basically, two types of information infrastructure are needed for information flow in a smart grid system. The first flow is from sensor and electrical appliances to smart meters, the second is between smart meters and the utilitys data centers. As suggested in [13], the first data flow can be accomplished through powerline communication or wireless communications, such as ZigBee, 6LowPAN, Z-wave, and others. For the second information flow, cellular technologies or the Internet can be used. Nevertheless, there are key limiting factors that should be taken into account in the smart metering deployment process which are discussed here in along with the respective technologies can be found in Table I. .

Coverage Range 1-10 KM 1-10 KM 1-10 Km 10-50Km(LOS) 1-5Km(NLOS) 1-3 Km 30-50 M

Applications AMI,Demand Response, HAN AMI,Demand Response, HAN AMI, Demand Response, HAN AMI, Demand Response AMI Fraud Detection AMI,HAN

Limitations Low Data Rates Low Data Rates Costly spectrum Fees No widespread Harsh Noisy Enviroment Low Data Rate, Short Range

been realized as the most suitable communication standards for smart grid residential network domain by the U.S. National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) [15]. The communication between smart meters, as well as among intelligent home appliances and in home displays, is very important. Many AMI vendors, such as Itron, Elster, and Landis Gyr, prefer smart meters, that the ZigBee protocol can
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International Journal on Advanced Computer Theory and Engineering (IJACTE)

be integrated into [16]. ZigBee integrated smart meters can communicate with the ZigBee integrated devices and control them. Advantages: ZigBee has 16 channels in the 2.4 GHz band, each with 5 MHz of bandwidth. 0 dBm (1 mW) is the maximum output power of the radios with a transmission range between 1 and 100 m with a 250 Kb/s data rate and OQPSK modulation [16]. ZigBee is considered as a good option for metering and energy management and ideal for smart grid implementations along with its simplicity, mobility, robustness, low bandwidth requirements, low cost of deployment, its operation within an unlicensed spectrum, easy network implementation, being a standardized protocol based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard [4]. ZigBee SEP also has some advantages such as load control and reduction, demand response, real-time pricing programs, real-time system monitoring, and advanced metering support [16], [17]. Disadvantages: There are some constraints on ZigBee for practical implementations, such as low processing capabilities, small memory size, small delay requirements and being subject to interference with other appliances, which share the same transmission medium, license-free industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) frequency band ranging from IEEE 802.11 wireless local area networks (WLANs), WiFi, Bluetooth and Microwave [16]. Hence, these concerns about the robustness of ZigBee under noise conditions increase the possibility of corrupting the entire communications channel due to the interference of 802.11/b/g in the vicinity of ZigBee [12]. Interference detection schemes, interference avoidance schemes and energy-efficient routing protocols, should be implemented to extend the network life time and provide a reliable and energy-efficient network performance. B. Wireless Mesh

Advantages: Mesh networking is a cost effective solution with dynamic self-organization, self-healing, selfconfiguration, high scalability services, which provide many advantages, such as improving the network performance, balancing the load on the network, extending the network coverage range [15]. Good coverage can be provided in urban and suburban areas with the ability of multihop routing. Also, the nature of a mesh network allows meters to act as signal repeaters and adding more repeaters to the network can extend the coverage and capacity of the network. Disadvantages: Network capacity, fading and interference can be counted as the major challenges of wireless mesh networking systems. In urban areas, mesh networks have been faced with a coverage challenge since the meter density cannot provide complete coverage of the communications network. Providing the balance between reliable and flexible routing, a sufficient number of smart nodes, taking into account node cost, are very critical for mesh networks. Furthermore, a third party company is required to manage the network, and since the metering information passes through every access point, some encryption techniques are applied to the data for security purposes. In addition, while data packets travel around many neighbors, there can be loop problems causing additional overheads in the communications channel that would result in a reduction of the available bandwidth [16]. C. Cellular Network Communication Existing cellular networks can be a good option for communicating between smart meters and the utility and between far nodes. The existing communications infrastructure avoids utilities from spending operational costs and additional time for building a dedicated communications infrastructure. Cellular network solutions also enable smart metering deployments spreading to a wide area environment. 2G, 2.5G, 3G, WiMAX, and LTE are the cellular communication technologies available to utilities for smart metering deployments. When a data transfer interval between the meter and the utility of typically 15 min is used, a huge amount of data will be generated and a high data rate connection would be required to transfer the data to the utility. Advantages: Cellular networks already exist. Therefore, utilities do not have to incur extra cost for building the communications infrastructure required for a smart grid. Widespread and cost-effective benefits make cellular communication one of the leading communications
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A mesh network is a flexible network consisting of a group of nodes, where new nodes can join the group and each node can act as an independent router. The self-healing characteristic of the network enables the communication signals to find another route via the active nodes, if any node should drop out of the network. In PG&Es SmartMeter system, every smart device is equipped with a radio module and each of them routes the metering data through nearby meters. Each meter acts as a signal repeater until the collected data reaches the electric network access point. Then, collected data is transferred to the utility via a communication network.


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technologies in the market. Due to data gathering at smaller intervals, a huge amount of data will be generated and the cellular networks will provide sufficient bandwidth for such applications. When security comes into discussion, cellular networks are ready to secure the data transmissions with strong security controls. In addition, GSM technology performs up to 14.4 Kb/s, GPRS performs up to 170 Kb/s and they both support AMI, Demand Response, Home Area Network (HAN) applications Anonymity, authentication, signaling protection and user data protection security services are the security strengths of GSM technology [16]. Lower cost, better coverage, lower maintenance costs, and fast installation features highlight why cellular networks can be the best candidate as a smart grid communications technology. Disadvantages: Some power grid mission-critical applications need continuous availability of communications. However, the services of cellular networks are shared by customer market and this may result in network congestion or decrease in network performance in emergency situations. Hence, these considerations can drive utilities to build their own private communications network. In abnormal situations, such as a wind storm, cellular network providers may not provide guarantee service. Compared to public networks, private networks may handle these kinds of situations better due to the usage of a variety of technologies and spectrum bands. D. Powerline Communication Powerline communication (PLC) is a technique that uses the existing powerlines to transmit high-speed (23 Mb/s) data signals from one device to the other. PLC has been the first choice for communication with the electricity meter due to the direct connection with the meter [10] and successful implementations of AMI in urban areas where other solutions struggle to meet the needs of utilities. PLC systems based on the LV distribution network have been one of the research topics for smart grid applications in China [12]. In a typical PLC network, smart meters are connected to the data concentrator through powerlines and data is transferred to the data center via cellular network technologies. PLC technology is chosen for data communication between the smart meters and the data concentrator, while GPRS technology is used for transferring the data from the data concentrator to the utilitys data center [16]. Advantages: PLC can be considered as a promising technology for smart grid applications due to the fact that the existing infrastructure decreases the installation cost of

the communications infrastructure. The standardization efforts on PLC networks, the cost-effective, ubiquitous nature, and widely available infrastructure of PLC, can be the reasons for its strength and popularity. PLC technology can be well suited to urban areas for smart grid applications, such as smart metering, monitoring and control applications, since the PLC infrastructure is already covering the areas that are in the range of the service territory of utility companies. Disadvantages: There are some technical challenges due to the nature of\ the powerline networks. The powerline transmission medium is a harsh and noisy environment that makes the channel difficult to be modeled. The lowbandwidth characteristic (20 kb/s for neighborhood area networks) restricts the PLC technology for applications that need higher bandwidth [16]. Furthermore, the network topology, the number and type of the devices connected to the powerlines, wiring distance between transmitter and receiver, all, adversely affect the quality of signal that is transmitted over the powerlines [16]. The sensitivity of PLC to disturbances and dependency on the quality of signal are the disadvantages that make PLC technology not suited for data transmission. However, there have been some hybrid solutions in which PLC technology is combined with other technologies, i.e., GPRS or GSM, to provide fullconnectivity not possible by PLC technology. V. SMART GRID STANDARDS There are many applications, techniques and technological solutions for smart grid system that have been developed or are still in the development phase. However, the key challenge is that the overall smart grid system is lacking widely accepted standards and this situation prevents the integration of advanced applications, smart meters, smart devices, and renewable energy sources and limits the interoperability between them. The adoption of interoperability standards for the overall system is a critical prerequisite for making the smart grid system a reality. Seamless interoperability, robust information security, increased safety of new products and systems, compact set of protocols and communication exchange are some of the objectives that can be achieved with smart grid standardization efforts [16]. There are many regional and national attempts towards achieving this goal; for example, the European Union Technology Platform organizations strategic energy technology plan is all about the development of a smart electricity system over the next 30 years; Ontario Energy Board, Canada, has committed itself towards the completion of a smart meter installation [16]. On the other hand, NIST, the American National Standards
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International Journal on Advanced Computer Theory and Engineering (IJACTE)

Institute (ANSI), the International Electro technical Commission (IEC), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and many more . some of those are listed under in Table II. Name/Type of Details Standard Provide Common Information Model (CIM). ICE 61970 is ICE 61970 & ICE used in transmission domain & ICE 61969 in Distribution 61969 Domain. Flexible, future proofing, open standard, communicates ICE 61850 between transmission, distribution & substation automation. A guide for smart grid inter-operability of energy IEEE P2030 technology & IT operation with the electric power systems IEEE P1901 ISA 100.11a ANSI 12.18, ANSI12.19, ANSI12.22 . VI. CONCLUSION In this paper, Opportunities, Challenges, Communications technologies and Standards for smart grids have been discussed and presented. Clearly, there are many important open research issues for the realization of smart grid communications and applications. Future work includes discussion of grid characteristics, architectures, key players, pilot projects, applications, and research challenges on ICT issues, in order to give a complete overview on the subject. VII. REFERENCES [1] "ALL INDIA REGIONWISE GENERATING INSTALLED CAPACITY OF POWER". Central Electricity Authority, Ministry of Power, Government of India. October 2012. "Power sector at a glance: All India data". Ministry of Power, Government of India. June 2012. e-energy-contribution-in-india.html M. Erol-Kantarci and H. T. Mouftah, Wireless multimedia sensor and actor networks for the next generation power grid, Ad Hoc Networks, vol. 9, no. 5, pp. 542551, Jun. 2011. Y. Saber and G. K. Venayagamoorthy, Plug-in vehicles and renewable energy sources for cost and emission reductions, IEEE Trans. Indust Electron., vol. 58, no. 4, pp. 12291238, Apr. 2011. [10] [6] High Speed Powerline communication Open Standard for Wireless Systems Data Structures Transportation via Optical Media, flexible metering models

Application Energy Management Systems. Substation Automation Customer side application In home-media,utility & Smart Grid applications Industrial Automation Automatic Metering Instruments (AMI)

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network, in Proc. IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting, Jul 2529, 2010, pp. 1 6. [14] L. Wenpeng, D. Sharp, and S. Lancashire, Smart grid communication network capacity planning for power utilities, in Proc. IEEE PES, Transmission Distrib. Conf. Expo., Apr. 19 22, 2010, pp. 14. Y. Peizhong, A. Iwayemi, and C. Zhou, Developing ZigBee deployment guideline under WiFi interference for smart grid applications, IEEE Trans. Smart Grid, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 110 120, Mar. 2011


V. C. Gungor, D. Sahin, T. Kocak, and S. Ergt, Smart grid communications and networking, Trk Telekom, Tech. Rep. 11316-01, Apr. 2011. V. C. Gungor, B. Lu, and G. P. Hancke, Opportunities and challenges of wireless sensor networks in smart grid, IEEE Trans. Ind. Electron., vol. 57, no. 10, pp. 35573564, Oct. 2010.



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