The expertise of STMicroelectronics in the smart grids sector is commodious. In fact the Geneva headquartered semiconductor and electronics heavyweight was an early innovator in the smart grid landscape. Traversing across the years of innovation and technology advancement, Allan Lagasca – ST’s smart grid honcho draws the company’s innovative journey on building a sustainable and smart power future. Excerpts.
Q. What is STMicroelectronics bent for the Smart Grids sector and what are the technological developments the company is undergoing ?
As a world-leading semiconductor manufacturer, STMicroelectronics has been actively involved in smart-grid technologies, products and applications from the earliest days, and offers a large product portfolio targeted to smart grid needs. ST delivers intelligent and energy-efficient products and solutions that power the electronics at the heart of everyday life. ST’s products are found everywhere today, and together with our customers, we are enabling smarter driving and smarter factories, cities and homes, along with the next generation of mobile and Internet of Things devices.
A smart grid is a digitally-controlled, self-healing energy system that delivers electricity or gas from the energy source, including renewable energies, to the points of consumption.
It optimizes power delivery by facilitating two-way communication across the grid, enabling end-user energy management, minimizing power disruptions and transporting only the required amount of power. The result is greater efficiency, leading to lower cost to the utility and the customer, more reliable power and reduced carbon emissions.
With more than 20 years of presence and investment in the field of metering and smart grids, ST has developed the widest portfolio of semiconductor products and solutions meeting the needs of these segments. ST’s strategy in the smart grid is to be the one-stop shop for smart-grid applications.
The long success stories with Enel Group and other leading energy utilities and meter manufacturers worldwide have already demonstrated the quality of our solutions.
There are a number of reasons why smart grids have attracted so much interest and investment. Enhancing existing power grids by adding intelligence and digital communications:
- Increases efficiency by optimizing energy supply and demand
- Increases reliability and power quality, improves responsiveness
- Better manages current demand and prepares for the future
- Reduces costs for the provider and consumer
- Provides the communication platform for new applications.
Smart grids have four key components: Smart metering, Building automation, Electric mobility and Renewable energy sources. All these are functionally linked by advanced subsystems, including power conversion modules, communication protocols and energy storage systems so they can share information and provide feedback to the utility, the consumer, and other systems on the grid.
Q. What are the new trends in your company for Smart metering ?
AMI (automatic metering infrastructure) or Smart metering essentially involves an electronic power meter supplemented by full remote control, diagnostics, power peak and consumption analysis, anti-tampering mechanisms, fault alert, timevariable tariffs, and many more possibilities.
Using powerline communication (PLC) or other wired and/or wireless technologies to connect the meter to the service provider enables these features, through the powerful smart-grid protocols. An ICT (information and communication technology) infrastructure in the home, called a home area network (HAN), enables smart management of all digital devices typically found in the home.
A HAN can use the full range of wired and wireless connectivity technologies related to the specific subsystems included in the home system. Typical HAN subsystems include PC networks, HVAC systems and alarm/security systems, as well as new types of subsystems for the emerging smart-grid applications, such as energy management systems, local alternative-energy generation systems (photovoltaic, for example), and vehicle-to-grid systems.
A HAN infrastructure can be open and must be connected with both the AMI and the Internet through a home gateway to enable high-end services. STMicroelectronics offers highly-efficient products for HAN applications aimed to meet the new market requirements. ST’s advanced technology and know how are ideal for both wired and wireless communication technologies. We offer a full range of components and evaluation boards as reference for HAN applications.
The range of solutions covers:
- Smart plugs
- Smart energy meters
- In-home displays
- Home gateways.
Q. What sets ST solutions apart from the current solutions in the market in the field of Smart Grid? STMicroelectronics offers the most advanced System-on-Chip (SoC) solutions in the market for smart grid applications, addressing both modular and super-integrated architectures, depending on the customers’ and markets’ needs.
For example, STCOMET platform is the industry’s first superintegrated complete smart-meter System-on-Chip (SoC). It combines a precision metering front-end with programmable application processing and multi-standard PLC (Power-Line Communication) subsystem, along with the Line Driver and advanced security engine in a single device.
The STCOMET10 SoC delivers unprecedented integration, leveraging the expertise in PLC and smart-meter ICs that ST has gained over 20 years and via more than 60 million devices delivered. OEMs can use this unique future-proof platform to simplify smart-meter design, reduce time-to-market, and significantly reduce component count and bill-of-materials costs.
STCOMET has been widely deploying in the field and it’s been adopted in advanced Smart Grid programs worldwide, including SOGRID, and by ENEDIS French Utility aimed at developing a comprehensive communication system supporting smart-grid applications.
Taking the PLC roadmap further, ST just recently launched its new modular Power-Line Communication (PLC) modem chipset ST8500 at European Utility Week 2017.
The ST8500 is a fully programmable power line communication (PLC) modem system on chip (SoC), able to run any PLC protocol in the frequency band up to 500 kHz, packaged in an ultra-compact 7×7 mm QFN package. The device architecture has been designed to target CENELEC EN50065, FCC and ARIB compliant applications supporting all major PLC protocol standards such as ITU G.9904 (PRIME), ITU G.9903 (G3-PLC) and many other possible PLC protocol specifications and evolutions.
The chipset provides more flexibility to manufacturers of:
- Utility meters
- Smart-grid nodes
- Home and industrial controllers.
It enables customers to implement powerline communications cost-effectively, either as part of new designs or as the core of an add-on module on older devices.
The solution is also a perfect fit for markets with specific regulatory requirements. In these scenarios, the ST PLC-modem chipset acts as an
external communication module that interfaces with either the existing or a new metering or controlling device. In addition, flexible programmability allows multiple product variants to share a common hardware foundation, and permits software updating in the field to further lower cost of ownership.
Three leading global smart-meter manufacturers are already designing solutions based on this new platform.
Q. Highlight key benefits in using ST chips in metering solutions?
In addition to the STCOMET, which we’ve previously discussed, the ST portfolio includes an Application Specific Standard Product (ASSP) family designed for high accuracy measurement of power and energy in power line systems using the Rogowski coil, current transformer or shunt current sensors. The STPM3x family provides instantaneous voltage and current waveforms, calculates RMS values of voltage and current, active, reactive and apparent power and energy.
The STPM3x is fully configurable and allows fast digital-system calibration in a single point over the entire current dynamic range. Meter manufacturers can produce a poly-phase metering solution using one STPM34 and one STPM32 interfaced to a general-purpose microcontroller to develop a polyphase meter as shown in the diagram on the next page (slide 15). We need 3 voltage, 3 current for phase and one for Neutral as neutral current is monitored for anti-tamper.
- High accuracy over a wide dynamic range down to standby currents for accurate billing and power-quality monitoring
- Active power accuracy:
- <0.1% error over 5000: 1 dynamic range
- <0.5% error over 10000: 1 dynamic range
- Reactive power accuracy:
- <0.1% error over 2000:1 dynamic range
- Fast single-point calibration and multiple flexible configurations for easy product design and low manufacturing cost
- Embedded anti-tampering features and compliance with international metering standards for worldwide safe adoption STPM3x is a mixed-signal IC family consisting of an analog and a digital section.
The analog section consists of:
- Up to two programmable gain low-noise low-offset amplifiers
- Up to four 2nd order 24-bit sigma-delta ADCs
- Two bandgap voltage references with independent temperature compensation
- A low-drop voltage regulator and DC buffers
The digital section consists of:
- Digital filtering stage
- A hardwired DSP
- DFE to the input
- A serial communication interface (UART or SPI).