When members of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, or NRTC, asked about wireless advanced metering solutions, the co-op looked into technologies that would be able to traverse some of the long distances that the utilities cover. The winner is Sensus, which will have its FlexNet AMI system and entire smart grid technology platform resold through NRTC.

FlexNet is based on a long-range radio that can cover not only long distances but also a variety of terrain.

“A long-range radio approach to AMI allows us to best serve our service territory,” Don Book, general manager of Dubois Rural Electric Cooperative in Jasper, Ind., and the first NRTC member to select Sensus through the NRTC partnership, said in a statement. “We will now bring the benefits of the smart grid to our customers by automating meter reads, reducing truck rolls and receiving real-time notification of outages for faster service restoration.”

Jasper is likely just the tip of the iceberg for Sensus. The organization has 1,500 electric and telephone utility members across 48 states and approximately 80 percent of rural electric co-ops are in some phase of implementing smart grid technologies, according to GTM Research.

“The Sensus FlexNet system is a proven, licensed wireless AMI technology and a wise investment for the future as it can support smart metering and smart grid applications like distribution automation with one network,” said Ed Drew, vice president, utility solutions at the NRTC.  

Although the entire rural market only makes up about 10 percent of the total market, the utilities are often able to move faster and implement more complete smart grid projects that include intelligence on the grid, and not just metering. Sensus is already working with other co-op utilities including Southern Maryland, Sawnee EMC, Cobb EMC and Jackson Electric Cooperative.


--- ABB donated $1.2 million to North Carolina State University to build up its power engineering program. The money, which is expected to be matched by state and private grants, will establish an endowed professorship, scholarships, lectures and a faculty support fund.

Power engineering has been getting sexier as smart grid and clean energy projects gain traction. As distributed automation and grid automation become hot topics, utilities are looking for new blood as their aging work force retires. Now, colleges and universities are seeing a surge in interest from students who used to flock to other areas of engineering or business.  

“One of our biggest challenges is finding skilled engineers who are well trained in the technical principles of this dynamic field,” Enrique Santacana, president and CEO of ABB Inc. and regional manager of ABB in North America, said in a statement. “Not only will this initiative establish a pipeline of talented people for ABB, it combines NC State’s top academic thinking and our practical business know-how for advancing this exciting and rapidly changing industry.”

This latest gift only strengthens ABB and NC State’s close working relationship. The company is a tenant on campus and has a Smart Grid Center of Excellence on the Centennial Campus.

--Lighting Science Group Corporation is hoping it has a winner with its new 60-watt replacement LED bulb, which it is submitting to the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize (L Prize) competition.

The bulb, developed with Light Prescription Innovators, has to meet the L Prize criteria of more than 90 lumens per watt, energy consumption of less than 10 watts, a lifetime of more than 25,000 hours, a color rendering index greater than 90, even omni-directional lighting distribution, and last but certainly not least, a retail price starting at $22.

“This bulb is yet another example of how Lighting Science Group is revolutionizing the science of light to produce LED products that deliver on the promise of LED technology and further its widespread adoption, right here in America,” Fred Maxik, founder and chief technology officer of Lighting Science Group, said in a statement.  “We are confident that our LED bulb developed in partnership with LPI meets or exceeds all of the criteria for the L Prize, making it a strong contender to win the competition, but we also believe that developing this product will further accelerate the transformation of the lighting industry to highly efficient LED technology.”  

There is already competition, however. Philips Electronics was the first to submit a bulb to the competition and it is undergoing testing right now. The winner will also get a whole lot more than some cash and bragging rights. The first company that meets the competition’s requirements will get a shot at federal purchasing agreements, utility partnerships (various utilities are already partners in the program) and other incentives.

--- Xatori announced its PlugShare App on Monday, which is now available for the iPhone and iPod touch.

The app is a community-based electric vehicle network that allows EV/iPhone owners to share their outlets with each other across the U.S.; it also lists public charging stations.

It’s a cool idea, if you like the idea of strangers plugging in their cars in your garage. But that’s not all -- you can also call or text other PlugShare members, perhaps if you’re planning an impromptu EV party.

Other charging networks are also planning free apps for finding charging stations, but PlugShare claims it is reducing range anxiety by offering more than just charging stations. In fact, if you love EVs but don’t own one, you can also sign up if you want to let people come by and plug in.

“If you let someone charge for the afternoon it might cost you 45 cents or 70 cents, a pretty small amount compared to the price of oil,” explained CEO Forrest North, who also founded Mission Motors. (Mission makes electric drive-trains for cars and motorcycles.) "There are a lot of people out there that want the EV revolution to happen, but maybe they don’t want to buy a new EV right now. Instead of talking about it and complaining about it they can be a part of a solution by offering their outlet.”

The best part? It only takes about eight to 12 hours to charge a car using a standard outlet. Time to break out the lemonade. Makes charging stations at fast food chain restaurants seem downright logical.

--And finally, Transphorm, the people with the gallium nitride AC-DC converter, released their first product. It's a diode. 


Simona Drevensek contributed to this article.