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Google Supports White Space Smart Grid Trial

PORTOLA, CALIF.: Google is backing the test of a wireless smart-grid power system that uses TV white spaces. The Internet search giant partnered with Spectrum Bridge of Lake Mary, Fla., and the utility cooperative of Plumas-Sierra County, Calif., where the trial is being carried out. Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative & Telecommunications elected to use white spaces to monitor the power grid in the county, and to provide broadband access in underserved areas.

“Plumas, Lassen and Sierra Counties are located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and present some very technical challenges with respect to wireless coverage,” said Lori Rice, chief operating officer of the utility. “The ability to use white space has proven to be an effective option for dealing with difficult terrain and offers another option for wireless connectivity.”

The Plumas-Sierra wireless smart grid is being used to deliver broadband connectivity to remote substations and switchgear so utility operators can manage those systems remotely. The grid incorporates Google’s PowerMeter technology for monitoring energy use. PowerMeter provides real-time use data via the Internet for electricity customers.

Says Google’s director of green business operations, Rick Needham: “This project demonstrates the incredible potential of this spectrum to revolutionize not only wireless communications, but also rural energy.”

Spectrum Bridge is participating by tracking available spectrum for the project. The company specializes in sniffing out white spaces--spectrum previously left between TV channels to prevent interference. The FCC freed up white spaces for unlicensed use after last year’s DTV transition. It was assumed digital transmissions would be less susceptible to interference than analog TV signals.

Spectrum Bridge manages a dynamic data base of available white spaces. Both Spectrum Bridge and Google are among companies vying to become the FCC’s official TV spectrum data base manager. FCC rules require unlicensed devices to be in contact with its database. A manager has has yet been selected.

The Plumas-Sierra trial is the third municipal white-space network involving participation by Spectrum Bridge. It was most notably involved in the first high-profile effort undertaken by Claudeville, Va. The rural Blue Ridge community launched a white-space broadband network last October. Another in Wilmington, N.C., was launched this last February using Spectrum Bridge’s database.
-- Deborah D. McAdams

January 4, 2010: “White Space Database Manager Proposals Due”
The unlicensed devices that will soon operate in unoccupied TV channels will be required to check the database for where TV stations, BAS operations and other broadcast entities are using spectrum. 

October 22, 2009
: “Virginia Town Exemplifies White Space Usage
The community of Claudville, Va., is quintessentially “unserved,” an archetype for using TV spectrum for wireless broadband.