In July 2012, India experienced the world's largest blackout, leaving nearly 700 million people without electricity for two days. Widespread power outages, which are common in India, highlight the need for increased use of smart grids and smart meters across the country to provide more accurate reporting and a reduced chance of transformer overload.
winAMR Systems is an Indian smart meter solution provider offering innovative and efficient metering and communication solutions to the utilities sector worldwide. winAMR's smart metering solution improves grid efficiency, helps automation to reduce costs and improve quality, and enables interaction between the consumer and the utility, which benefits both parties as the country tries to meet the growing demand for energy. The specific benefits they offer utilities include business agility, demand side management, revenue assurance and energy governance.
Five years ago, winAMR was using power line communication (PLC) in its smart meter solution. However, this proved to have limitations pertaining to data communication accuracy and authentication in RF mesh.
"We needed a smart grid solution with standard operating protocols, user-friendly interfacing with modules, such as API mode, while offering low power consumption," said Mr. Narasimhamurthy.ANS. Vice President (R&D) winAMR Systems Limited. "It was also important that the solution had to specifically address remote metering operations, peak load management, outage management, power quality management, energy audit, distributed generation (micro-grids) features, like automated meter reading, load balancing and energy audits that could be done phase-wise. Multicasting feature implementation was also essential for us."
After researching various options, winAMR selected Digi's XBee® RF modules – specifically the XBee ZNet 2.5 and XBee-PRO® ZNet 2.5 – because of the many benefits of their feature set over a PLC, including greater accuracy and authentication. With a readily available and reliable ZigBee stack, along with easy-to-use configuration tools, the modules provide a fast time-to-market by drastically reducing time for programming, designing and testing.
"Digi's solution is user-friendly, easy to set up and has allowed us to implement standard operating protocols, as well as enjoy the benefits of low power consumption. We have also had great support from the sales and technical teams," Mr. Narasimhamurthy said.
This solution gives winAMR an advantage over competitors by providing operations control; monitoring efficiency/effectiveness; resource rationalization; flexible tariffs (TOU/TOD); grid optimization; distribution capacity enhancement; energy audits; and reduction in asset capitalization. Other benefits include accurate real-time access to energy usage information; real-time control of energy consuming devices; low power consumption; cost-effectiveness.
By using the ZigBee-based XBee module with each network and a single data concentrator unit enabled with GSM/GPRS connectivity, winAMR can push all the data to a backend server. This reduces operational costs and provides superior communication over GSM/GPRS.
Additionally, each meter no longer requires a SIM card, significantly reducing monthly wireless carrier charges. The previous solution incurred SIM card charges of 70,000 rupees per month for each 1000 meters (at 70 rupees per card). However, with Digi's solution, the monthly cost per 1000 meters is only 2,300 rupees.
"We are happy with the Digi solution because we are able to reduce our costs (RS 40.62 Lakhs per 1000 meters over five years) and improve accuracy in data communication," Mr Narasimhamurthy said. "By using Digi's product we are able to provide a very robust solution, which is ahead of our competitors. It is easy to integrate/interface with any other solutions and gives customers the option of having the choice of hybrid communications."