For the Grid and Through the Grid: The Role of Power Line Communications in the Smart Grid
Are Power Line Communications (PLC) a good candidate for Smart Grid applications? The objective of this paper is to address this important question. To do so, we provide an overview of what PLC can deliver today by surveying its history and describing the most recent technological advances in the area. We then address Smart Grid applications as instances of sensor networking and network control problems and discuss the main conclusions one can draw from the literature on these subjects. The application scenario of PLC within the Smart Grid is then analyzed in detail. Because a necessary ingredient of network planning is modeling, we also discuss two aspects of engineering modeling that relate to our question. The first aspect is modeling the PLC channel through fading models. The second aspect we review is the Smart Grid control and traffic modeling problem which allows us to achieve a better understanding of the communications requirements. Finally, this paper reports recent studies on the electrical and topological properties of a sample power distribution network. Power grid topological studies are very important for PLC networking as the power grid is not only the information source but also the information delivery system-a unique feature when PLC is used for the Smart Grid.