“Previously, energy was generated in a power station and transported to local end users,” says Jochem Turk, Lead Telecom Engineer within Secondary Engineering at Alliander, responsible for the preparation of the technical specifications for the active and passive aspects of the network. Until a few years ago networks only operated “unidirectionally”. However, energy networks are becoming increasingly dynamic as a result of the addition of vehicle charging stations and energy generators such as wind turbines, solar panels and geothermal sources. Not all of these are controlled by utilities and the energy yield is highly variable. To manage measurements and distribution, continuous realtime information is essential. This information is collected and analyzed using “Smart Metering” and “Smart Grids”. Alliander opted for a full end2end fiber connection.

Highest possible uptime

The backbone is being leased from several dark fiber providers. Alliander built the last mile to the substations with fiber. The fiber network consists of a total of three core rings and 25 aggregation rings. This way, when other providers roll out similar networks, these can easily be connected. The main network requirement was availability, or the highest possible uptime. The design had to ensure this. For example, in some cases the devices have been equipped with double power supplies.

Rene Eriks, who managed the project on behalf of installer Schuuring, states: “For Alliander the advantage is being able to manage and maintain its own infrastructure, without having to depend on other parties. Alliander can now easily organize the network and even scale up, it will always fit its current needs. We see Smart Grids as here to stay in the utility sector. The entire sector embraces this concept.”

Customer requirements are high and the design also differs from solutions in other sectors. For Schuuring, the reliability and quality of equipment and materials are a top priority. Everything has to be absolutely trouble-free and long lasting. Schuuring doesn’t just accept specifications dictated by the manufacturer, it checks all equipment in every step of the process.

In this project, every location is equipped with redundant connections. When a cable is damaged, a second cable takes over. The installer had no previous experience of R&M equipment but found the products to be of high quality and worth recommending to colleagues, since the R&M product range is wide and the products are scalable and easy to use.

Low insertion loss

All parties involved worked together closely, from the civil engineering to rolling out the fiber at various locations. Insertion loss had to be kept as low as possible in this network, something which was achieved by using connectors with a very high polishing degree.

R&M also helped in defining the network and its components and provided maximum support in planning, logistics and installation.

Jochem Turk concludes: “We had been using materials from R&M for some time, but European procurement rules required us to allow other parties to take part in the tender. However, R&M came out on top. The company’s service level as well as its speed of action have surprised us in a positive way. We deliberately chose a premium segment supplier because we wanted outstanding service and a wide range of solutions to choose from. Alliander is one of the first energy suppliers to roll out a fiber optic network on this scale and other parties are watching closely. For everyone in the sector, it is now clear that this is the way ahead.”