Power Line Carrier | Cost Effective Communications

Substation Data Communications

Having visibility of your asset monitor data is a critical part of a successful condition-based monitoring program. Alarm and trending data cannot be acted upon quickly without robust communications. The challenge is that traditional substation architectures require all SCADA and backhaul communications to route through the control house. Modern substations use RTU’s, data concentrators and other equipment to securely route data back to asset managers. Trenching in fiber optic cable from each asset monitor back to the control room can be costly, time consuming and dangerous. It is best to consider other less intrusive and more reliable connection methods.

Data on an asset managers computer


Trenching costs up to $12K per asset

Do power line carriers save money?

An alternative approach uses existing wires to connect asset monitors to the control house. For decades, protective relaying and demand response applications use power line carrier technology. It provides fast, secure, and reliable communications across overhead lines. It is a high frequency signal applied on wires that are already carrying DC or fundamental AC currents. Scaling down this technology to a low voltage control wire allows customers to provide broadband speeds across existing wires completely avoiding the cost of trenching. A power line carrier solution can be applied at a fraction of the cost of trenching thereby greatly reducing the cost and labor associated with condition-based monitoring.

Power Line Carrier vs Wireless Communications Options

Reliability of a Power Line Carrier

Wireless technology continues to improve as Wi-Fi, Cellular and mesh radio technologies continue to expand in availability and bandwidth. They all suffer from some of the same basic limitations inherent to wireless solutions. Within a substation environment there is an immense amount of electromagnetic interference from the power system itself. This can be challenging for wireless solutions to filter out and operate properly. Additionally, the layout of a substation typically does not consider line of site as a building criteria, so the placement of assets and control houses may not be optimized for wireless technology. Use of antennas can be difficult without encroaching on safety clearance required for lines and bus-work. These factors do not affect power line carrier solutions.

What kind of security precautions should I consider with substation communications?

Wireless technology is a broadcasted signal that requires several techniques to ensure it is only received by the proper destination. These techniques include encryption, user authentication, certificate exchanges, etc.

While power line carriers use many of the same best practices to ensure secure communications, they are most benefited by the physical security of the carrier line itself. A buried line within a substation yard is much harder for an intruder to breach than a wireless signal that may be detectable from outside the substation fence.

Introducing the iBridge Communications Solution

The Dynamic Ratings iBridge Communications Solution saves time and money while avoiding the security concerns associated with wireless antenna systems. The iBridge inductively couples the data onto existing conductors, providing the ability to send serial and ethernet based data utilizing hardware that can be installed in just a few minutes.


Additional Resources


Delivering data with the iBridge Communications Solution.


Easy way to install power line communications.


How to install an iBridge Communications System.