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CommScope, Alpha, SCTE create backup power system

Tue, 07/19/2011 - 8:50am
Brian Santo

The SCTE, Alpha Technologies and CommScope have collaborated on a prototype powering system designed to help cable operators provide business customers with guaranteed power continuity.

The system will enable MSOs to sign service-level agreements (SLAs) with enterprise customers, such as banks and other financial institutions, that dictate the availability of backup power should primary power sources experience outages.

The system leverages environmentally friendly technologies, including hydrogen fuel cells and photovoltaics (PV), together managed for continued availability during lengthy power interruptions. The SCTE's own 19-kilowatt green power system turns out to have been something of a pilot project for the system.

ALPHA ENERGYAlpha is the lead on the PV and battery elements, while CommScope is providing the fuel cell technology. The former contributed a 2.8 kW grid interactive solar array and 20-hour runtime storage batteries. The latter contributed a fuel cell power system that provides 8 kW, expandable to 16 kW.

Intelligent controls are from Alpha and OutBack Power, an Alpha Technologies company, optimize the generation and storage capabilities of all sources when public utility power is unavailable.

Batteries will last for at least eight hours on their own, SCTE CEO Mark Dzuban explained, but the system will opt to consume PV power first. If it gets too dark for PV input, the system will fall back on battery power and the fuel cell will kick in, making sure the battery doesn't fall below a pre-set, say about 70 percent of total charge.

"We believe it's good for five days, maybe even seven," Dzuban told CED. "And it's all green. It burns H2, and the by-product is water."

Hydrogen fuel cell cabinet"While cable has increased its share of the Tier 2 and Tier 3 business markets, the greatest growth potential exists with Tier 1 business services customers," said Jim Hughes, senior vice president of broadband sales at CommScope. "Working together with SCTE and Alpha, we're creating deployment models that will help operators deliver the high-performance, high-reliability services that large corporations, particularly those with multiple locations, demand."

Cable operators could of course also use the system for their own purposes.

Jim Heidenreich, vice president of product management and customer fulfillment for Alpha Technologies, said he expects the three will end up developing even more advanced power management and power availability solutions.

The development of the 19 kW system is significant not only for itself, but is more evidence of the ongoing transformation of the SCTE. The organization is not only expanding its educational programs to support the professional development of its members, but it's also pursuing a more active role in the application of technologies of common benefit to all in the cable industry.

Engaging in activities such as defining a power system with Alpha and CommScope helps solidify the SCTE's position as the applied science leg of a three-legged platform, Dzuban observed, with CableLabs focused on development and the NCTA on public and legislative matters.

The SCTE's MSO patrons have given the organization the mission to provide more technology development support, in four specific areas:

  • Power and energy
  • Scaling business services (with congruence with the first goal)
  • Network operations and IP technology
  • Integrating CPE, consumer electronics, Wi-Fi and untethered devices.

The SCTE has been working on green power for some time and has also been tasked with helping its membership progress with the industry's overall migration to IP technology, but the specific goals with business services and CPE are new.

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