Westermo Ethernet switches and extenders in project for improving renewable energy system

Robust Ethernet ring network over a combination of fiber and copper cabling created for the collection of energy data.

By using modern communication solutions in infrastructure projects, it is possible to achieve improvements and increased efficiency. However, it can be difficult to create these solutions because it can involve complex issues such as the need to cover large geographical distances, poor access to cable infrastructure and networks and installation environments outdoors with large temperature fluctuations, moist and other stresses that require very rugged communication equipment. Westermo is specialized in infrastructure applications and has over 35 years of experience in creating robust network solutions.

In an infrastructure drive that was developed to learn more about, and to cope with future challenges for energy consumption, Erlanger Stadtwerke AG (ESTW) created a pilot project that they call "The intelligent neighborhood" in the district of Anger in Erlangen, Germany. Anger is a residential area with many houses that have been equipped with photovoltaic systems that not only provide the house with electricity, but also a surplus that goes out to the public grid. By installing measuring and control equipment to the buildings, ESTW hope to learn more about how the technology can be refined and how energy consumption can be optimized.

ESTW needed to create a reliable Ethernet solution to connect all the measuring and control equipment in the area with their control room. They knew that the measurements would generate large amounts of data and the network needed to be adapted for high transfer rates and high reliability. They also wanted to use the fiber network that was available in parts of the area as their main communication path. Some properties were however not included in the fiber network which was a significant problem they had to solve.

ESTW contacted Westermo to discuss a suitable network solution. The Lynx is an incredibly compact and robust Ethernet switch that met all the requirements of the project. The small size allowed it to be easily installed in the crowded control cabinets and the robust characteristics of the switch made it suitable for installation in the harsh outside environment. The switches also provide support for ring network configuration as well as functionality for high network security. Since the cabinets which the switches are installed into are scattered over a large area and not monitored, it was important to protect the network against potential intrusion. All WeOS products from Westermo supports 802.1X  port-based network access control that makes it easy to protect the network from unauthorized access.

To incorporate the properties that did not have access to the fiber network, Westermo could offer a solution which utilized conventional twisted pair copper wires. The Wolverine SHDSL Ethernet extenders allow the creation of Ethernet networks over long distances over any kind of copper wires. The extenders can be easily combined with the fiber optic switches in the same ring configuration while maintaining the fast reconfiguration time in the event of a network failure. "The made ​​easy management and innovative network solution contributed significantly to how fast we could get the system up and running," said Fredrich Schuh from Erlanger Stadtwerke .

The data collection partially began in October 2012 and from June 2013, the entire area is connected to the network. ESTW is in full swing to collect information that will be processed together with the University of Erlangen - Nuremberg in the quest for improved energy generation. "When working on projects for sustainability, it is good to have a partner such as Westermo who have proven themselves in the past and who I believe will be able to meet the challenges of tomorrow, concludes Fredrich Schuh.

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