Alan Weissberger Smart Grid

Silicon Valley Power’s Smart Grid Network & Free WiFi in Santa Clara

That’s the title of the Dec 14 IEEE ComsocSCV Meeting in Santa Clara, CA. In addition to two presentations and a spirited panel discussion, there will be a short award ceremony preceding the talks. Here’s a brief description of each talk:

1. Fiber enables Santa Clara’s “Smart” Wireless WAN

Larry Owens of Silicon Valley Power (SVP) will describe the utility’s smart grid objectives and networks.  SV Power currently owns and operates a 57-mile, four-ring, 144 fiber backbone that not only connects SCADA and substations for higher reliability, but it also connects over 2 dozen data centers and supports the communication needs of 16 commercial entities through its dark fiber leasing program. Early in its smart grid thinking, SVP realized that a highly capable wireless network that blanketed the city and backhauled over fiber would have value far beyond advanced “smart” metering. SVP then purchased a nearly-abandoned 802.11b/g SkyPilot system that covered part of Santa Clara and was able to prove the ability to communicate securely with a multitude of devices in the field. SVP is now ready to replace the original Wi-Fi system with a serious, utility-grade, fiber-backhauled 802.11b/g/n Tropos system that covers the entire City of Santa Clara . This has us all thinking about how this approach enables the future for our utility, the city and the community. From dark fiber leasing to free outdoor Wi-Fi, SVP takes “smart” to the next level.

2. Outdoor wireless networks for smart grid

IEEE ComSoc SCV’s Wireless Program Director – Chari – will discuss smart grid communications requirements and the unique challenges those present for wide-area wireless networks (coverage, reliability, latency, QoS, etc.). He will also discuss how Tropos Networks is addressing those challenges in the context of an overall wireless system design that includes mesh with fiber backhaul as well as other wireless technology elements.

After the presentations, the speakers will engage in a lively panel session with the moderator and the audience.

Speakers and company affiliation:

  • Larry Owens, Divison Manager of Customer Services and Marketing, Silicon Valley Power
  • Narashima Chari, Co-founder and CTO of Tropos Networks

Further details and RSVP instructions at:

Backgrounder on SV Power’s Smart Grid Objectives & Research Findings:

Silicon Valley Power, formerly known as Santa Clara Municipal Utilities, provides electricity to residents and business’ in the city of Santa Clara. In addition, the utility leases its dark fiber network to business customers, particularly those with interconnected data centers.

Here are a few highlights:

52,000 customers, $280M annual revenue

  • 1% of the State’s power usage
  • 57-mile fiber optic network
  • 2010 – SVP is #1 in:
  • EPA Green Power Community
  • Large Customer Satisfaction/Value
  • Lowest Average Rate in CA
  • One-step Solar Permits/Interconnection
  • Very, very high power reliability

A key finding was that most Santa Clara residential customers favor smart meters, with two-thirds saying the smart meter concept was a good idea.  But few customers want to give up control to reduce load (e.g. let SV Power manage electricity load for a customer). That gave motivation and incentive for SV Power to pursue its smart grid initiatives.

SV Power’s Smart Grid focuses on Wi-Fi, Information and Empowerment. The features desired by residents include: free WiFi, customer alerts, projected bill, up to date usage, on/off switch for peak energy, select bill due date, environmental program, off peak rates, hourly data review, daily usage stats.

SV Power will upgrade its technology to support widespread adoption of solar energy, smart appliances and electric vehicles. They will follow a careful process and verify accuracy at every step, protect customer data and privacy, and keep the computer system secure.  They plan to utilize tried-and-true meters that have been successfully deployed in millions of homes and businesses worldwide. They are committed to a fair resolution of any issues or problems that may arises that arise.

Silicon Valley Power Overall Goals

  • Be competitive in the marketplace with a continuous focus on customer service
  • Provide economic value to the City of Santa Clara and its customers, maintain low residential rates, and offer competitive rates for all customer classes
  • Manage debt and resources to achieve and maintain a competitive position
  • Be a strategically driven organization with a focus on our performance as an energy services supplier
  • Operate Silicon Valley Power in a safe, reliable, efficient, and environmentally responsible manner
  • Manage Silicon Valley Power successfully through electric industry restructuring
  • Enhance value to our customers through the delivery of new products and services
  • Manage Silicon Valley Power’s participation in joint powers agencies to achieve the City of Santa Clara’s goals
  • Develop flexibility to respond to changing business environments
  • Achieve quality communications with all stakeholders

Data Center Networking in the City of Santa Clara made possible by SV Power’s Fiber optic network

The SVP Fiber Enterprise dark fiber network is owned and maintained by Silicon Valley Power, the electric utility of the City of Santa Clara, long recognized as one of the most reliable utilities in the nation.  This dark fiber is leased to business customers, data center operators and telcos.  SV Power operates and maintains the SVP Fiber Enterprise network.  Characteristics and attributes include:

  • 57-mile, four-ring, 144 fiber backbone
  • Dedicated fiber staff
  • Flexible term leases, flexible pricing
  • 24/7 monitoring and on-demand support
  • Redundant fiber paths
  • Ceiling-free triple-play bandwidth
  • Interactive, customer-driven design
  • Ring fiber leases
  • Rapid response work order fulfillment

Data centers are attracted to Santa Clara by the price of electricity from Silicon Valley Power, which is slightly less than pricing for PG&E in surrounding towns in Silicon Valley.   Some  data center providers using SVP Fiber Enterprise network include:  Telx, Digital Realty Trust, DuPont Fabros, CoreSite, Vantage Data Centers, QTS, Terremark and Server Farm Realty.

Further information on the SVP Fiber Enterprise dark fiber network is at:

Author Alan Weissberger

By Alan Weissberger

Alan Weissberger is a renowned researcher in the telecommunications field. Having consulted for telcos, equipment manufacturers, semiconductor companies, large end users, venture capitalists and market research firms, we are fortunate to have his critical eye examining new technologies.

12 replies on “Silicon Valley Power’s Smart Grid Network & Free WiFi in Santa Clara”

Dec 14 IEEE ComSocSCV meeting will be the last one for Alan J Weissberger as a ComSoc officer. A short farewell speech will precede awards given to our three most productive officers in 2011. Those three will form the nucleus of the 2012 ComSocSCV leadership team!

Look forward to seeing you on Dec 14th- 6pm at National Semi/TI Auditorium in Santa Clara!

Why did SV Power & Tropos chose IEEE 802.11n rather than WiMAX for the outdoor wireless network?

What about smart meter reading & AMI network?

Fiber network resiliency and fault tolerance?

These are some of many ?s to ask the spekaer/panelists at the last ComSocSCV meeting of the year!

Questions for the speakers during the panel discussion session:
1. Larry Owens of SV Power

-What criteria did SV Power use to select an outdoor wireless equipment vendor? Why did you chose Tropos?

-What type of reliability and availability goals do you have for your outdoor wireless & fiber optic networks? In particular, what type of fault isolation and recovery mechanism do you use to guarantee maximum uptime/ minimum faillure down time?

-What happens to the public WiFi network when there’s a lot of SV Power generated traffic on your outdoor wireless network? Assumption is that public WiFi get the residual bandwidth, but what might that range be per WiFI user (or aggregate bandwidth for all WiFi users in Santa Clara)?

-What equipment & technology is used to interconnect the outdoor Wireless SV network with your fiber backbone?

-How is the fiber backbone bandwidth managed and partititioned between internal SV Power traffic (e.g. for smart grid and other) vs leased fiber bandwidth to your data center and other customers? What type of NOC do you have?

-What’s the plan for automatic power meter reading and your AMI network? Does that AMI network feed into the outdoor wireless netowrk and if so how are those two networks interconnected?

-What is the plan to evolve these networks over the next 5 years?

2. Chari of Tropos (and ComSocSCV Mgr of Wireless Programs)

-Why did Tropos select IEEE 802.11n over IEEE 802.16d or e (WiMAX) for interconnection of your outdoor wireless equipment?

-What do you call your nodes, e.g. wireless routers or something else? What functions do they perform, including fault isolation and failure recovery?

-Do your nodes use Tropos proprietary routing algorithms or any IEEE 802.11 mesh WiFi standards? What is the commercial acceptance of those 802.11 mesh WiFi standards?

-What are the next generation WiFi standards Tropos plans to implement? Will those implementations be capable of software upgrades of nodes in the field or msut there be hardware changes that take the node(s) out of service?

-What are your plans for mobility in the markets Tropos serves, e.g. wireless connections for equipment/ devices in vehicles, mobile/hand held media tablets, special purpose industrial gadgets, etc? Are those all proprietary utility interfaces (like AMI) or are there any standards for those device/gear/sensor/meter to wireless node RANs?

-Any plans for LTE or (longer term) LTE Advanced? WiMAX 2.0 (802.16m)?

Ken, Thanks for attending the last IEEE ComSocSCV event of 2011 & my last lecture as ComSocSCV Chair. Permit me to share with readers one part of my farewell speech:

“During the last 5 years as Program Chair, ComSocSCV held over 70 events……..Now, these events didn’t happen on their own. It took meticulous planning, solid organization & diligent on site logistics+ a great deal of teamwork. And it’s teamwork that I’d like to emphasize. My greatest sense of satisfaction & outstanding accomplishment has been to recruit, coach and mentor our wonderul TEAM of ComSoc officers. They are all effective, conscientious and dedicated to their work.

It’s my great pleasure to introduce the starting line up for Team ComSoc in 2012; ………………………………….”


Thanks to all for creating & growing our ComSoc Community in Silicon Valley!

Alan Weissberger


It was a well organized event and your farewell speech was an excellent reminder of the teamwork, passion and dedication it takes to make these sort of events successful. Congratulations to you for putting together such a great program and for receiving an award that was well deserved.

I hope to be able to put together some cogent comments on my notes from the excellent presentations.

The program was a fitting end to 2011 and also to Alan’s chairmanship of Comsoc. We were expecting a smaller crowd of ~50 but 80+ showed up and made the evening lively and memorable.

Ken, thanks again for hosting our discussions on Viodi and wish the very best for all Comsoc members & Viodi community members.

Let us continue the momentum into 2012!

Thanks for the reference article and comment, M.P. Security was a topic that drew discussion at the meeting. The article you referenced has scary implications. My impression of Silicon Valley Power is that that security is a priority.

One tidbit that I found interesting is that Silicon Valley Power customers consume approximately 1% of the power in California, while the residential population represents only 0.3% of the state.

I am about to post a couple of other comments in today’s Viodi View.

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