Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Making the electric grid smart

Peter L. Corsell, 30


Making the electric grid smart

Credit: Abby Sternberg

Use the interactive graphic to learn more about Corsell’s work, and watch him discuss the importance of injecting intelligence into the grid.
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In today's power grid, a steady but essentially passive flow of electricity links power plants, distribution systems, and consumers. It is a "dumb, inefficient system," says Peter L. Corsell, founder and CEO of GridPoint; in order to meet peak demand, power plants must be able to generate twice as much electricity as is typically needed. So Corsel­l has created energy management software that, combined with hardware from GridPoint and others, allows utilities to better balance power generation and elec­tricity demands, increasing both efficiency and reliability.

GridPoint's software allows consumers to use a personalized Web portal to set limits on electricity consumption. Using a small computer attached to a home's circuit box, utilities then measure energy consumption and control appliances such as water heaters and thermostats. "Consumers should be able to buy 74° and the utility company then sells them 74°," says Corsell. In addition to helping people conserve energy and reduce their bills, the system makes it simpler to integrate renewable energy sources such as solar cells and wind turbines into the grid.

Corsell has raised $102 million, and utilities will begin deploying the technology within the next year. For instance, Xcel Energy, a Minneapolis-based utility, has selected GridPoint's platform for its power grid project in Boulder, CO. Read why Corsell's thinks we need to apply information technology to the grid. --Brittany Sauser