Over the years, utilities have built a quilt of networks with a mix of protocols and standards. One wouldn't call these utility networks designed -- they just sort of sprouted up. Many utilities have joined substations to their back offices via landline phone networks or modems or cellular networks.
If the electrical grid of the future is genuinely going to be smart, it means there's going to be a lot more data coming at the utility. And utilities tend to have competencies in energy distribution, not in information networking.
This smart grid thing is going to require communications experts. Like Arcadian Networks.
Networking the grid is a hot topic. One of the challenges for a utility in building a wireless network is constructing a robust communications link between utility assets and the central management control system. Arcadian specializes in in connecting rural areas that have mission-critical assets better than traditional carriers.
Arcadian Networks was founded in 2006 by refugees from the networking, telecom and wireless industries with the help of $90 million from Goldman Sachs, Gilo Ventures and Clal Industries. The startup builds networks that send data to a utility's central office from a variety of devices on the grid -- meters, substations and distribution automation.
The secret weapon at Arcadian is their 700 MHz wireless broadband network designed specifically for utilities and renewables. According to Arcadian, the 700 MHz Spectrum is more robust, has better reach than the 900 MHz spectrum and is more suited for large territories and hard-to-reach areas.
As an example, the Arcadian router gateway gathers data transmitted via WiMax, Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G commercial cellular networks and 900 MHz licensed and unlicensed spectrum. That collection of different "languages" is transmitted over Arcadian's 700 MHz network to the utility.
The 700MHz spectrum looks to be a better choice than 900Mhz in rural areas, since the signal can travel farther without relays and can penetrate physical obstacles (such as crops and hilly terrain) that higher frequencies may struggle with. And since the 700MHz spectrum is licensed -- there is no interference from other sources.
"Our solution is designed to be a network of networks," said Ed Solar, President & CEO of Arcadian. This startup has already accomplished something big. They've helped deploy a 66,000 square mile network for Great River Energy in Minnesota that operates 24/7, 365 days a year. There are 2,000 applications and 67 base stations hooked up to the network. Arcadian has connected disparate advanced metering infrastructures across the territory. In the words of the CEO, "We are the only company that has provided ubiquitous smart grid across such a large territory. Moreover, unlike many project with very public cost overruns, we built our network on time, on budget and as planned based on a 67 site design."
The firm has 65 employees and has been in business for our four years. Their first two years were focused on getting the Minnesota Network up and running. Now that the technology has been "proven on a large scale," the CEO plans on investing in the sales force and the marketing arm of the company.
Arcadian has an Israel connection. The company has an Israeli investor, Clal Industries, and a Tel Aviv R&D center that is home to 22 employees who design and release relevant products to the markets quickly.
With the ability to connect disparate smart grid systems including smart meters, distribution automation equipment, transmission line monitors, security cameras and the like, "This is a living, breathing smart grid that proves interoperability," said Jake Rasweiler, Arcadian's CTO, in a recent interview with Greentech Media.
Israel, known as the "Startup Nation," is starting to go big in greentech. Long a leader in water desalination, Israel is also innovating in solar, biofuels, smart grid and energy efficiency.
Arcadian Networks is one of ten Israeli greentech firms chosen by The California-Israel Chamber of Commerce (CICC) to participate in a delegation meeting with industry leaders, investment firms, policymakers and utilities April 26-28 in Silicon Valley, California. The Israel Cleantech Showcase, scheduled for April 27 at the Palo Alto Research Center, will be a full day of presentations by the delegation companies and other greentech industry thought leaders.
Arnold Goldman, Founder of BrightSource Energy, Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, Fong Wan, Senior VP of Energy Procurement, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and Steve Westly, former California State Controller and Managing Director of the Westly Group, will be speaking at the event.
The visiting Israeli companies are:
Water -- Amiad Filtration Systems, TaKaDu
Smart Grid -- Arcadian Networks
Solar -- BrightView Systems
Energy Efficiency -- Linum Systems, Panoramic Power
Biofuels -- Designer Energy, Rosetta Green, TransAlgae
Electric/Hybrid Vehicles -- ETV Motors