Wi-Fi mesh is already in use in many municipal backhaul networks, and Tropos continues to push to bring the networks to the forefront of smart grid systems.

After a successful pilot, Burbank Water and Power has selected Tropos Network’s WiFi mesh network, GridCom, for its smart grid communications platform.

BPW will use GridCom to link various smart grid applications, including meters for electricity and water, distribution automation, demand response, distributed generation and support for electric vehicles for its 51,000 customers.  

The $62 million project is partially funded by the Department of Energy’s Smart Grid Investment Grant.

GridCom will be integrated with the existing fiber optic network, and when it is completed, the system will potentially be available to other city departments, including police, fire and traffic.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company has also named Glendale Water and Power and investor-owned Avista as new smart grid customers in 2010.

The comprehensive project by BWP is no surprise, as many municipal and coop utilities have taken a lead in end-to-end smart grid investment. Unlike many investor-owned utilities that are trying to make the case for rate increases to pay for the upgrades upfront, BWP said in a statement that it does not expect to raise its customers' rates to pay for the rollout. Instead, it expects to pay for the process through (hold on to your hats) operational savings and selling any excess capacity on its communication systems.

Part of the reason for a networked grid in California is the state’s mandate of 33 percent renewable power by 2020 and the impending rollout of PHEVS. Tropos was picked for its reliability and security to deliver on BWP’s needs.

“Ultimately, we needed a highly reliable and resilient system with strong security, sub-20-millisecond latency and at least 5 Mbps bandwidth. Tropos’ wireless network was the only one that met these performance criteria while maintaining the flexibility to support multiple applications,” Bruce Hamer, Smart Grid program manager at BWP, said in a statement.

Interestingly, BWP’s first foray into Wi-Fi-networked smart grid was not during a pilot with Tropos, but back in 2007 when it chose SmartSynch’s Wi-Fi-enabled smart metering technology for its customers.

Now, SmartSynch is championing cellular, another technology that has been used on the back end of utility networks and is looking to break into mainstream smart grid applications.