Brazil is a big country with continental dimensions, as big as its contrasts. On the one hand Brazil has the expertise to develop renewable alternatives for energy supply, to construct high tech-based cost-effective commercial airplanes, and the capacity to congregate diversities of cultures and other positive characteristics; on the other hand the degradation of tropical forests, the increase in urban violence and lower HDI indexes in some regions are some of the illnesses of the country.
Both sides of the coin are also present in the power metering area. It is surprising how in some regions of the country a culture of ‘free electricity’ has developed, while in other areas utilities have been developing and applying state-of-the-art technology to protect their revenues.
Some major electric utilities are about to issue RFPs for the acquisition of technology intensive metering systems. AMR, customer connection/disconnection, tamper detection, and approval from Inmetro (the Brazilian metrology institute) are some requirements. One of the shortcuts that foreign manufacturers have found to explore this large market is to partner with local manufacturers. Some examples are the US-based companies Itron, TWACS and Quadlogic that have teamed up respectively with local Brazilian companies ELO, Nansen and Seed’el. The partnership model has been of several kinds, such as direct ownership, joint venture or a technology exchange.
A good example is the agreement between the Brazilian Seed’el Technologia and Quadlogic Controls Corporation. Seed’el has an interesting patented concept that eliminates the low voltage network, named Furacão (‘hurricane’), whereby the oil-insulated distribution transformers (75 kVA average) that usually supply a large number of consumers are replaced by several small 30 kVA dry-type transformers, and as the medium voltage network feeds the transformers, no LV network is needed, as long as the wires go directly from the transformer to the consumer.
In order to enhance the Furacão project, Quadlogic has equipped the dry transformer output with self-contained meter modules with PLC features. With the PLC signal travelling through the transformer, hundreds of singlephase, two-phase and three-phase LV consumers can be monitored with only one data concentrator (the scan transponder) installed on the MV line using an insulated coupler. The meter readings and events can be retrieved through GPRS, Internet or other available communication technology.
Challenges? They are everywhere. Nevertheless solutions must be sought. Technology and creativity must work together in order to find the best solution. New winds are blowing in Brazil, and if strong enough they will spread overseas.