ARPA-E Backs Software To Smooth Grid Flow

Helping utilities and grid operators better manage energy delivery in real time — especially with new renewables coming online — is a high priority these days. Thus the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) decision to spend $2.865 million in Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) funding on smart-grid project intended to design and demonstrate automated grid control software.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based AutoGrid Systems, the main recipient of the award, is working with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Columbia University on DROMS-RT (demand response optimization and management system–real-time) software. Berkeley Lab says algorithms contained in this software bundle will make it both possible and practical to inform millions of ratepayers about the real-time cost of electricity during any period, hopefully resulting in energy choices that reduce peak-time use, lower bills and relieve utilities from the need to build more power plants.

arpa-e, autogrid

image via Shutterstock

As the U.S. energy grid stands today, it contains so many antiquated elements – according to Berkeley Lab’s Dave Watson – that even Thomas Edison would recognize them. This is why there are so many brownouts or blackouts. But rather than building more power plants, or even more efficient power plants, the DROMS-RT would create a form of customer-based demand response that would allow utilities to reduce peak loads, keep the lights on and take the strain off the existing system.

DROMS-RT, described as a quantum leap response to real-time energy pricing and management, is expected to reduce demand response and dynamic (time-of-day) pricing program costs by 90 percent while making it possible to integrate more renewable energy. Customers who subscribe will potentially be able to save up to 30 percent on their electricity bill by running dishwashers, electric dryers and air-conditioning units during off-peak periods when prices are low and energy readily available.

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