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 08/22/2014
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
The U.S. electric grid is outdated and inefficient. There is 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.
Impact Summary: 
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.
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