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Avoiding RF interference in the smart grid

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With the proliferation of wireless and electronically switched devices, RF interference (RFI) is constantly rising and can have adverse effects on utility operations and the smart grid.

RF interference (RFI) is electromagnetic Interference (EMI) in the RF spectrum. Specifically RFI is unwanted electromagnetic emissions  that drowned out the transmissions from wireless devices. This interference can lead to intermittent connectivity, poor throughput, and reduced data rates. It can also result in security vulnerabilities and overall network instability.

The main factors that can disrupt the transmission or reception of a radio signal are competing signals from other radio transmitters, spurious emissions entering the desired transmission channel from poorly insulated power lines power lines, or other electrical devices.

For utilities, the best way to minimize path loss and RFI vulnerability in a radio network is by conducting Computer Aided RF Path Studies and Physical RF Path Survey’s prior to the installation of a wireless system. An RF Path study will determine the path feasibility, expected receive signal levels, and antenna height requirements. A physical RF Path Survey will provide an expected signal to noise ratio (SNR), an optimal antenna height, azimuth and elevation, and a true receive signal level – resulting in an over increased immunity to RFI.

RF Path Survey tests a range of indicators.

RF path study & testing

SSS are experts in helping utilities avoid interference. Our engineers have extensive experience conducting RF Path Studies. While Interference can not be totally eliminated, the susceptibility of the system to RFI can be substantially reduced by ensuring proper design and installation of the wireless data system.

The RF path survey reveals the potential vulnerabilities of a wireless system to RF Interference and path loss, and tests for optimal signal strength. With this insight, engineers ensure reliable communication link designs.

Using point-to-point RF analysis, engineers test and optimize the following:

  • RF Band Utilization (VHF, UHF, Cellular, 400 Mhz, 900 Mhz. 2.4 Mhz, 5.4 MHz)
  • RF Transmission Methods and Technologies  (Narrow Band Licensed, Spread Spectrum, Cellular, WiFi, Microwave, or Satellite)
  • Point to Point, Point to Multi-Point, Mesh Network Links
  • Repeater systems
  • Antenna/tower heights
  • Antenna type, pattern, gain, and azimuth required at each location

Elevation map

The RF study involves many steps, including terrain mapping to show site locations and expected signal levels, and assessing the right antenna and radio frequency needed. In some cases, a different, lower frequency radio is required. For example, GE’s MDS Orbit Platform is optimized to avoid RF interference. It gives you the option of putting a 400 and 700 Mhz radio inside the orbit platform, so you have different configuration options to optimize signal transmission.

To establish or ensure reliable communications for your utility’s SCADA application, SSS can help. Our experienced team of engineers are experts in network design and troubleshooting.

To inquire about SSS’s solutions to avoid RFI, call or email us at Engineering Services Team at 636-789-9999, info@secondsightsystems.com.

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