Distributed Power Flow Control

Smart Wire Grid

Distributed Power Flow Control Using Smart Wires for Energy Routing

Graphic of Smart Wire Grid technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$3,977,745
Location: 
Oakland, CA
Project Term: 
04/23/2012 to 09/30/2014
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

Several emerging trends, including the rapid growth in renewable generation and greater emphasis on improving grid efficiency and resiliency, are leading to a critical need to modernize the way electricity is delivered from suppliers to consumers. Modernizing the grid's hardware and software could help reduce peak power demand, increase the use of renewable energy, save consumers money on their power bills, and reduce total energy consumption--among many other notable benefits.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Smart Wire Grid is developing a solution for controlling power flow within the electric grid to better manage unused and overall transmission capacity. The 300,000 miles of high-voltage transmission line in the U.S. today are congested and inefficient, with only around 50% of all transmission capacity utilized at any given time. Increased consumer demand should be met in part with a more efficient and economical power flow. Smart Wire Grid's devices clamp onto existing transmission lines and control the flow of power within--much like how internet routers help allocate bandwidth throughout the web. Smart wires could support greater use of renewable energy by providing more consistent control over how that energy is routed within the grid on a real-time basis. This would lessen the concerns surrounding the grid's inability to effectively store intermittent energy from renewables for later use.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, Smart Wire Grid's power flow control devices could increase overall grid transmission utilization by more than 30% and result in cost savings of over 50% when compared with simply upgrading transmission lines themselves.

Security: 

A more efficient, reliable grid would be more resilient to potential disruptions from failure, natural disasters, or attack.

Environment: 

Enabling increased use of wind and solar power would result in a substantial decrease in carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.--40% of which are produced by electricity generation.

Economy: 

A more efficient and reliable grid would help protect U.S. businesses from costly power outages and brownouts that stop automated equipment, bring down factories, and crash computers.

Innovation Update: 
(As of May 2016) 
Smart Wires, formerly known as Smart Wire Grid, has successfully developed a method for controlling power flow on the electric grid using a Distributed Series Reactance (DSR) device, called the PowerLine Guardian™. These devices clamp onto existing transmission line conductors and allow operators to increase the line impedance on command using wireless communication controls. The company’s ARPA-E award was critical in providing the funding it needed to begin commercialization of its first product. Since the project began, Smart Wires has raised roughly $60M in three rounds of private sector funding. Continued field-testing and validation of the PowerLine Guardian™ devices is ongoing. Smart Wires has created a go-to-market strategy and developed additional product lines to continue to promote the commercialization of their products. 
 
Smart Wires was able to move from prototype to a field-ready DSR unit in less than a year. They developed a control system, electrical and mechanical design, the magnetic core, and packaging for extreme environments. After successful lab testing emulating worst-case scenario environmental and operational conditions, Smart Wires deployed 100 units on a 161 kV transmission line. Preliminary system simulations conducted during the project indicate that these devices could potentially increase overall system utilization by more than 30 percent. Since the ARPA-E project, the team has also expanded the capabilities of their system-level control software, called PowerLine Commander™, and developed new types of power flow controllers, which are able to both push power away from an over-utilized line or encourage flow through an underutilized line.
 
For a detailed assessment of Smart Wires project and impact, please click here.

 
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Timothy Heidel
Project Contact: 
Frank Kreikebaum
Partners
Carnegie Mellon University
Electrical Distribution and Design, Inc.
Georgia Tech Research Corporation
Innoventor, Inc.
New Potato Technology, Inc.
PowerWorld Corporation
Release Date: 
9/29/2011