Oregon utility accelerates grid modernization with wireless networking


Portland General Electric (PGE), a public utility in Oregon, announced that it is partnering with Expeto, provider of Enterprise Mobile Platform that enables networking over private and public mobile networks.  PGE is rolling out Expeto’s NeXtworking solution as its commercial private wireless network deployment, part of its plan to  accelerate grid modernization and renewable energy outcomes.

PGE expects the Expeto-enabled private wireless network to support automated grid resiliency, monitoring of field conditions with smart sensors and devices, and connected workers for enhanced employee safety. It will also support charging stations for electric vehicles on the public grid.

The Oregon utility is part of a coalition that supports Oregon’s decarbonization law (HB 2021), which sets decarbonization goals for the electric sector of reducing GHG emissions to 80% below baseline levels by 2030, 90% by 2035 and 100% by 2040.

PGE has been ahead of the carbon-reduction curve, announcing back in 2017 a 39 MW energy storage plan that included a planned investment of somewhere between $50 million and $100 million. This investment exceeded the state-mandated energy storage requirement by more than seven times. In 2015, the Oregon legislature passed House Bill 2193, which required all investor-owned utilities like PGE to add at least 5 MW of energy storage, not to exceed 1% of its 2014 peak loads.

Last year PGE and NextEra Energy Resources completed the Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility a first-of-its-kind renewable energy project that consists of a 300 MW wind farm, a 50 MW solar facility, and a 30 MW (4 hour discharge) battery storage system. The project was one of the first in the United States to combine wind generation, a solar array, and an onsite battery energy storage system (BESS). The wind farm began operations in 2020.

The Expeto solution for wireless networking is intended to provide the scalability needed to support the large number of grid nodes including distributed energy and EV chargers, among other devices, to help reduce carbon, while increasing resilience and meeting safety goals. The plan is for the network to eventually cover 4,000 square miles and connect 250,000 devices using existing cellular networks at one-tenth the cost of traditional solutions.

PGE selected Expeto based on one year of successful testing during which PGE found that Expeto delivered a powerful, secure, virtual private network based on connectivity from tier-one mobile operators.

“We had a choice between dedicating a large capital outlay on a new network that would take many years to build or immediately growing our business through renewables and grid applications as part of a more cost-effective option,” said Ananth Sundaram, senior manager Grid Asset Engineering at PGE. “Expeto put sophisticated use cases within reach, like having a private network experience over public connectivity anywhere we need it. The company’s enterprise first approach has resulted in a strategy that gives us confidence our network connectivity is reliable and secure, freeing us to focus on accelerating the transition to a clean, reliable and equitable energy future.”

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