Power Electronics

ICs Find Home in Energy Meters, PLC Modems

Texas Instruments has announced that Incotex of Moscow has selected TI’s ultralow power MSP430 microcontrollers (MCUs), power-efficient TMS320VC54x digital signal processors (DSPs) and analog technologies for its e-meter, data collection and power line communication (PLC) system for power distribution networks. The Mercury PLC system reads up to 3000 e-meters and is designed to overcome the presence of high noise and signal loss encountered in electrical distribution networks.

By combining digital e-meters and a PLC-modem, power utilities can replace less accurate mechanical meters and manual meter reading for greater flexibility, control and cost savings for power distribution and measurement.

“By leveraging TI’s processors and analog technologies, designers can tap into less than 50-mW power consumption, high noise immunity with a signal to noise ratio of -20 dB and a low system cost,” said Yuri Sokolov, PhD, president of Incotex Holdings. “This makes our Mercury PLC system one of the world’s most advanced patented solutions available for PLC communication.”

Low-power technologies like TI’s MSP430 MCUs, C54x DSPs and analog components are critical in reducing overall power consumption on meters within a distribution system. Utility companies monitoring e-metering data that is transmitted via long-distance electrical distribution networks have traditionally faced significant technical challenges due to the “unfriendly” environment that utility networks—which were never designed for data transmission—represent.

Conditions such as changing load characteristics caused by household electrical appliances often make data transmission almost impossible. However, communications via the broadband modulation implemented by the Mercury PLC system overcomes the noisy environment, allowing e-meter communications data to be read at signal to noise ratios down to -20 dB and at a signal attenuation down to -60 dB, although not simultaneously.

Data can be transmitted at up to 100 different frequencies in two directions—both to read data from the e-meter and also to communicate, control and adjust the meter. Accurate, 2-way communication enables utility companies to easily adjust rates based on time of day, update software or be alerted in the event of user tampering or mechanical malfunction. This 2-way communication is based on two types of broadband modulation: orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), which transmits multiple signals simultaneously over a single path, and phase shift keying (PSK) of the frequency hopping carrier, in which the phase of a transmitted signal is varied in order to convey information.

The Mercury system, including the e-meter and PLC solution, is available now from Incotex as either a complete standalone solution or as part of a customer’s branded solution.

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