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IBM to Speed Adoption of New Smart Power Grid


IBM today announced the company is working with Pacific Northwest National Labs, the U.S. Department of Energy, and Sears/Whirlpool on two research studies designed to fortify the National Grid. The studies are part of a northwest regional initiative to test and speed adoption of new smart grid technologies that can make the power grid more resilient and efficient.

The following details were provided to ebizQ:

There are currently two studies launched today that will take place over the course of one year. Through the “GridWise” Demonstration projects, researchers will gain insight into energy consumers’ behavior while allowing homeowners to measure their electricity usage and adjust according to billing preferences and their impact of energy use on the National Grid.

The studies are primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. About 300 volunteers on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, in Yakima and in Gresham, Ore., will test equipment that is expected to make the grid more reliable while offsetting huge investments in new transmission and distribution equipment. Washington was selected as the test bed based on the fact that the Northwest region of the National Grid is under serious strain due to large population and industrial growth.

The first study is known as the Olympic Peninsula Demand Response Demonstration. In this test, consumers will receive real-time pricing information on their energy usage/costs and can adjust accordingly. For example, homeowners will be able to set how much they want to spend per month on energy and also be alerted when usage should be modified to defray strain on the grid and save money. At any point, test volunteers are able to override their pre-programmed preferences.

The second project is the Grid-Friendly Appliance Controller. The Appliance Controller chip will be included in Sears dryers and could help prevent widespread power outages by turning off certain parts of an appliance when it senses instability in the grid – something that happens once a day on average. Shutting down the heating element for a few minutes, while the drum continues to tumble, would likely go unnoticed by the homeowner, but drastically reduces power demand within the home. Multiplied on a large scale, this instant reduction in energy load could serve as a shock absorber for the grid. It would give grid operators time to bring new power generation resources on-line to stabilize the grid – a process that usually takes several minutes.

For the Olympic Peninsula Demand Response Demonstration, IBM is the overall system architect and integrator and is providing the WebSphere Application Server augmented with advanced “Internet-scale Control Systems” software developed by IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center. IBM software enables the connections between the embedded ‘smart’ energy devices and the real-time market pricing data to facilitate on demand pricing control. IBM software translates the data and communicates to the devices to tell them to turn on or off, depending on market price sensitivity pre-selected by the homeowner.

The Olympic Peninsula Demand Response Demonstration demonstrates IBM’s ability to deliver the next generation of service-oriented architectures through what is recognized as an event-driven architecture.

“At IBM, we view our work on the GridWise initiative as a way to help shape the future of the North American electric grid to fully benefit from the advances in information technology,” said Ron Ambrosio, manager, Internet-scale Control Systems and research relationship manager, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center.

Without WebSphere Application Server, the on demand information and research results would be nearly impossible to analyze in addition to being time consuming, costly and potentially providing erroneous usage and billing data.

This study is an example of how IBM demonstrates how consumers and businesses can leapfrog into the future with technology that both transforms their appliances into smart devices that are more energy efficient and cost effective on an individual and national scale. This concept is known as an event-driven architecture and is a glimpse into the future that builds on what today is recognized as a service-oriented architecture (SOA). One of the fastest growing sectors in the technology industry and an area where IBM is consistently ranked as the leader, SOAs enable a company to more closely align technology with the needs of the business. Its unique ability to achieve this represents a continued explosive growth of SOAs that is expected to reach $143 billion by 2008.

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