ARPA-E GO Competition Modernizing the Grid

Modernizing the Grid with the GO Competition

Energy Secretary Rick Perry just took to the airwaves to announce the launch of ARPA-E’s newest challenge, the Grid Optimization (GO) Competition. America’s electric grid is a vast network, consisting of several regions that cover all 50 states and Canada. Serving this huge geography requires thousands of miles of electric lines, connecting customers with generation sources including wind, solar, coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric power.

Today’s grid is evolving faster than ever, driven largely by the increasing competitiveness of intermittent renewable resources like solar and wind power. These sources operate differently than traditional generators like large fossil fuel plants or nuclear power, which mostly provide “always on,” baseload power. Because the wind does not blow constantly and the sun might shine for only half the day, these new resources introduce new challenges for grid managers. In addition, because these resources are often decentralized and spread across vast geographies, clever thinking is necessary to maximize their productivity and efficiency.


ARPA-E is charged with advancing the frontiers of energy innovation, and the grid of tomorrow is full of new opportunities to transform how Americans get their electricity. ARPA-E programs like NODES, ADEPT, GENI, and GRID DATA seek to develop the hardware, software and data needed to make the grid more agile, responsive, and secure. The GO Competition builds on the legacy of these programs, posing a series of challenges designed to solve specific problems facing our rapidly changing power system.

The First of Many Challenges

The first GO challenge is set to begin soon. Challenge 1 will ask competitors to build software solutions to the problem of security constrained optimal power flow (SCOPF), or, more simply, the challenge of routing electricity from the source to the consumer quickly, efficiently, safely, and reliably. Many eligible applicants applied for support grants for Challenge 1 through a competitive funding opportunity, though all qualified teams are invited to join:

Argonne National Laboratory - Lemont, IL

Bigwood Systems - Ithaca, NY

Case Western Reserve University - Cleveland, OH

Clemson University - Clemson, SC

Georgia Institute of Technology - Atlanta, GA

GERS USA - Weston, FL

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - Berkeley, CA

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory - Livermore, CA

Lehigh University - Bethlehem, PA

National Renewable Energy Laboratory - Golden, CO

Northwestern University - Evanston, IL

Pearl Street Technologies - Pittsburgh, PA

The Optimization Firm - Pittsburgh, PA

The Pennsylvania State University - University Park, PA

University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley, CA

University of Colorado, Boulder - Boulder, CO

University of Texas at Arlington - Arlington, TX

University of Utah - Salt Lake City, UT

ARPA-E and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have put together a website to help challenge participants and spectators keep an eye on challenge progress. Readers will be able to track team progress through live leaderboards and regular updates after the competition kicks off.

The GO Competition will extend beyond this first challenge, so stay tuned for regular updates and announcements from ARPA-E and the GO team.