Power line communications now being used in more and more scenarios

Power Line Communications

I had a nice catch-up call with Mike Holt the other day – Mike is Semitech Semiconductor’s VP Sales and Marketing and we had previously talked last August.

Mike was bringing me up to speed on what has been going on with Semitech in the last five months. Semitech make semiconductor chips specially designed for power line communications (PLC). Power line communications is essentially the use of electrical cables to transmit data.

Power line communications is receiving a lot of interest these days because of the current buzz (bad pun, sorry) around Smart Grids. Every smart meter is, by definition, connected to an electricity distribution network – if this network can be used to send and receive information, it saves having to roll out a separate infrastructure for your smart grid communications.

During our call, Mike made me aware of a number of bits of Semitech news (they’ve expanded their sales team, they had new product announcements and they closed a new funding round) but by far the more interesting part of the chat, for me, was when Mike started to tell me of the new markets that are expressing an interest in PLC.

According to Mike, there is now a growing interest in PLC coming from the urban lighting sector to help with maintenance and control of lighting. Mike gave me the example of Munich. Apparently there are five people employed in the city whose job it is to drive around the city at night spotting burnt out lights – with a PLC solution, you can receive an automatic notification as soon as your sodium lamps burn out and you get early indications that an LED is about to burn out allowing you to switch it out before it goes dark.

LED’s by themselves save large amounts of money (this is very important when urban lighting makes up to 40% of a cities energy budget) but, as we reported last year, LED’s when they are connected to an intelligent control system can save up to 87% on energy costs!

Other new markets for power line communications Mike mentioned were for remote management of solar panels on remote solar farms and seemingly there is a growing interest in PLC in the home automation field – which makes a lot of sense too.

Power line communications is not without its challenges – electrical networks can be ‘noisy’ and be prone to attenuation but as companies like Semitech become better at dealing with those issues, it is going to be fascinating to see just where PLC takes us.

Photo credit Ruud Hein


Green Bits and Bytes for January 20th 2011

Green bits & bytes


Here are a few of the Green announcements which crossed my desk this week:

  1. A new scheme called SunShare launched in the UK this week. The scheme allows home-owners to invest in solar panels for their home for only a part of the upfront installation costs. This means that qualifying UK homes can now get a fully installed solar PV system for as little as ?3,999, they will benefit from free electricity and they will also be able to earn more than ?1000 a year from the government backed Feed-in Tariff scheme.

    The UK Feed-In Tariff scheme is one of the most generous in Europe, paying 41.3p per kWh of electricity produced, regardless of whether it is used by the home-owner or not. The tariff is guaranteed for 25 years and it is index linked for Solar PV Systems.

    ?The government will review the scheme in 2012, which is likely to see The Feed-in Tariff rates changed from April 2013 for any new homes applying for it. There is therefore a window of opportunity now for consumers to take advantage of the current rates on offer? according to Mark Wynn, Managing Director Avoline PLC, the company which launched SunShare.

  2. Semitech Semiconductor, a Power Line Communications (PLC) chip maker with chips designed to enable communications for the Smart Grid announced yesterday that they had completed its Series A financing raising AU$3.4 million.
  3. The Institute for Transport and Development Policy released a report on Wednesday entitled Europe?s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation [PDF]. The report examines European parking policies over the last fifty years and found that European cities are reaping the rewards of innovative parking policies, including revitalized town centres; reductions in car use; drops in air pollution and rising quality of urban life.
  4. SAP’s rollout of e-mobility infrastructure which I wrote up just before Christmas has now been extended to their German HQ in Walldorf. SAP, in conjunction with local utility MVV Energie, have taken delivery of 30 electric cars and will be testing use of them by their employees as part of their Future Fleet project.

    The cars will be powered exclusively with electricity from renewable sources and this will be important given that over 80% of SAP’s direct CO2 emissions in EMEA come from company cars.

  5. On-demand environmental software maker Locus Technologies, announced this week that they have been certified as compliant with SAS 70 (Statement on Auditing Standards No. 70). Given that Locus are a SaaS company (i.e. they host their clients environmental information) this is a vrucial certification to have achieved – it gives confidence to Locus customers and potential customers that their data is safe with Locus.

Photo credit .faramarz