Jim Davis, CEOThe changing face of power generation and load has unsettled several aspects of the utilities industry. Grid operators face new challenges that affect the ability to maintain reliability, forecast future generation and predict load. To deal with these challenges, transmission infrastructure must become more flexible. Traditional planning tools in the transmission toolkit are not well-suited to an emerging world characterized by increasing unpredictability. Furthermore, regulators are calling for a greater role of renewable resources in the overall generation of power which puts additional pressure onto grid operators. Utilities are thus looking for solutions that offer the agility and speed to address transmission constraints. This need has sparked innovation in the form of Smart Wires, a robust grid optimization solutions company that is helping grid operators to deliver a dynamic grid that is clean, reliable, affordable and safe.
Smart Wires’ approach towards reliable electricity services revolves around using its PowerLine Guardian® technology to optimize the power flow across the grid. The technology can increase or decrease the impedance of a transmission line, effectively functioning as a valve for electricity that controls the flow of power through the line. By increasing impedance, grid operators can reduce the load on the overloaded line. If a line is underutilized, impedance can be decreased thus pulling more power onto the line. The result is operators achieve real time, dynamic control of each power line and improved utilization of the existing transmission infrastructure.
“The innovative use of distributed power flow control is an important element for making the transmission grid more dynamic and resilient,” says Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO, and President of PG&E Corporation, which is conducting a pilot project with Smart Wires. “We are constantly seeking technologies that will lower energy costs for our customers, and welcome the opportunity to put a potential solution to the test.”
Operators facing network upgrade challenges have alternatives besides reconductoring and voltage upgrades by integrating Smart Wires’ modular, flexible technology that can be redeployed in various positions in the grid.
Smart Wires looks beyond just adding additional capabilities to transmission lines, it is about building intelligent assets and transforming the way utilities plan their grids
They can also avoid building new transmission lines that take several years to complete and are often met with opposition. When a large western utility had reduced power generation from its hydroelectric stations due to less rain, it was bracing the increasing load. The company required new lines and if the drought were to end, the new lines would be of little use. “Smart Wires helped this utility to vary the impedance of the affected lines which mitigated the overloads associated with reverse power flows,” says Jim Davis, CEO, Smart Wires.
The company is currently focused on commercializing its new technology, Power Router™. Like the PowerLine Guardian, the Power Router is designed for modular deployment and shares the benefits of this approach to infrastructure investments. But with its ability to synthesize a highly tunable capacitance or inductance, the Power Router can address an even greater set of network challenges and offers electric utilities another degree of freedom.
With 21 years of experience in the industry spent on driving energy efficiency, power system reliability, and renewable power projects, Davis brings immense knowledge and the ability to build inventive technology solutions. These solutions are crafted to deliver reliability, cost efficiency, and situational awareness in the transmission network. So operators can reduce the need for integrating more renewable energy.
“Smart Wires looks beyond just adding additional capabilities to transmission lines, it is about building intelligent assets and transforming the way utilities plan their grids,” notes Davis.