LoRa Makes the Grid Smart

In the trend of energy-saving emission reduction, people can reduce energy consumption, and leverage new technology to enhance the efficiency of energy use at the same time. The smart grid is one of the important technical applications that enhance energy efficiency, and LoRa technology can help the successful promotion of smart grids.

The smart grid starts from advanced metering infrastructure

The goal of the smart grid is to build a high-speed communication network on top of the traditional power grid. It provides stable and efficient power supply through sensing, analyzing, forecasting, decision-making and controlling. The traditional power grid is divided into three major areas—power generation, transmission and distribution. The advanced metering system is the infrastructure which makes this traditional grid smart.

The smart grid includes an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) that records all power transmissions across the power system and will always monitor the use of electricity. The smart grid also includes superconducting transmission wires to reduce the transmission loss of power, but also has the ability to integrate new energy sources such as wind and solar.

With the smart meter, consumers can turn on heavy power-using household appliances and factories also can choose to start heavy power-using equipment when electricity price is cheaper. On the other hand, they can also turn off some unnecessary power devices to reduce demand during peak demand for electricity.

Another development direction of the smart grid includes the power grid fault detection, judgment, automatic test transmission and so on. The basic infrastructure of the smart grid starts from the device on the grid by artificial monitoring, then evolved to telemetry, remote control, and then evolved to automatic adjustment.

As the compound of a power plant, distribution system and users are often extensive, and sometimes it is necessary to link all smart meters across a large area, we need a network communication technology with wider coverage and high connection capacity. A low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) specifically designed for IoT and offering low frequency, low power consumption, long range connection, and high connection capacity will be the ideal option for smart grid applications. LoRa is a typical example of such LPWAN technology and has a very promising potential for development.

In 2013, Semtech announced the first Long Range (LoRa) chip, a super long-range LPWAN for industry. In March 2015, the LoRa Alliance™ was established as an open, non-profit association aiming to promote this LoRa protocol to the world and realize its commercial application.

The LoRa network basically comprises four sections: the terminal (built-in LoRa module), gateway (or base station), server, and cloud. The LoRa network also supports two-way transmission of application data. A link budget up to 157 dB achieves a communication range up to 15 km (depending on the environment). By installing a gateway at the existing mobile communication base station with a transmitting power at 20 dBm (100 MW), LoRa’s coverage will be about a 2 km radius even in an urban environment with high building density. In rural areas with low building capacity, the coverage will increase to a 10 km radius. This connection range favors smart grid applications in large compounds.

Murata’s Type ABZ LoRa module is a new-type, compact, and low-cost LPWAN wireless module that supports the LoRaWAN remote wireless protocol. This new, independent module is equipped with a Semtech SX1276 ultra-long range spread spectrum wireless transceiver and a STMicro STM32L0 Series ARM Cortex-M0+ 32-bit MCU. The module’s dimensions are 12.5 x 11.6 x 1.76 mm, including its metal shield packaging. The integrated TCXO is characterized by a powerful low drift thermal providing a precise clock source for the RF transceiver.

Murata’s Type ABZ LoRa module has a built-in MCU and a 192 kB flash memory with 20 kB RAM, and there is sufficient memory to embed customers’ applications and co-locate other modulation stacks. In addition, it can integrate selectable STSAFE secure element in the MCU to enhance network security. It can also achieve communication with UART, SPI, and I2C peripheral interfaces, and the ADC and up to 18 GPIOs make sensors, switches, and status LEDs more flexible.

The normal output power of Murata’s CMWX1ZZABZ module is +14 dBm. Users can select the PA boost function to raise the transmission power to +20 dBm when the signal at the end-device side or indoor is low. The module was powered by 2.2-3.6 VDC, and the industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) spectrum at 868 MHz and 915 MHz of Murata’s CMWX1ZZABZ module has been certified and approved by the radio regulations of most geographical regions in the world.

In addition to smart grid applications, the module’s typical applications include industrial control, wearables, tracing, M2M, and IoT edge nodes. It also has a wide working temperature ranged from -40°C to +85°C.

Murata’s Type ABZ LoRa module can accelerate the development of a LoRa network system for developers and simplify product development for the smart grid. It presents an excellent option for manufacturers interested in smart grid-related products.

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