Cleantech IQ: Smart Wire Grid Raises $13.4M in Second Round of Venture Funding


San Francisco-based Smart Wire Grid, a provider of smart grid devices designed to control power flows on transmission lines, got $13.4 million in a Series B round of venture funding on March 12, 2014, from RiverVest Venture Partners and a second undisclosed investor. This is a partial close funding targeting a total of $18.39 million for the round, according to the SEC filing. The company was founded in 2010.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E provided Smart Wire Grid with initial funding to the tune of nearly $4 million in October 2012.

Smart Wire Grid’s devices are designed to work existing transmission lines by clamping onto them and controlling the flow of power to provide more consistent control over how energy is routed within the grid on a real-time basis. This directly addresses concerns regarding the grid’s inability to effectively store intermittent energy from renewables for later use.

At the recent Cleantech Innovation Summit, ARPA-E Director Cheryl Martin described Smart Wire Grid as a success story. “We funded them to do the initial development as well as a first test,” she said. The first test involved 99 Smart Wire Grid devices along a 17-tower stretch in East Knoxville, Tenn., and was successful. The devices have since been tested several times in Southern California. Smart Wire Grid is “in negotiations with potential customers, outside the U.S., as well,” she said noting the company offers a “very, very innovative solution in a small package.”

ARPA-E’s website noted that Smart Wire Grid’s development of a solution to control power flow within the electric grid would enable utilities to “better manage unused and overall transmission capacity.” According to the agency: Due to congestion and inefficiencies, 300,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in the U.S. today can provide only half the transmission capacity at any given time. “Increased consumer demand should be met in part with a more efficient and economical power flow,” ARPA-E noted, adding that 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.

Original article.

T&D World: T&D Monitoring in Real Time

by Gene Wolf

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the DOE and Smart Wire Grid Inc. deployed an array of 99 SWG distributed series reactance units on one of TVA’s 161-kV transmission lines. The units provide sensing and monitoring of the line and, when needed, can inject inductive reactance to improve power flow (see T&D World April 2013 for more details).

Distributed series reactors, installed directly on one of TVA's transmission lines, inject inductive reactance on command and allow the operator to control power flowing on the line. Courtesy of Smart Wire Grid

Distributed series reactors, installed directly on one of TVA’s transmission lines, inject inductive reactance on command and allow the operator to control power flowing on the line. Courtesy of Smart Wire Grid

A Different Grid

The industry now has the ability to determine a transmission or distribution line’s rating in real time by remotely monitoring certain mechanical and thermal characteristics of the line. Thanks to advancements in sensor technology and the maturing of smart grid applications, the benefits of dynamic overhead line ratings are being experienced throughout the industry. They are allowing utilities to reduce or defer capital expenditures, improve congestion and push more power to the customer.

Initial real-time monitoring results show dynamic rating improvements ranging anywhere from 5% to 20% over static line ratings. This is a huge improvement for the transmission-constrained grid, especially considering this capacity can be added without any public hearings, regulatory approval or system outages.

Original article.

T&D World: Smart Control of Transmission

by DeJim Lowe, Josh Shultz, Ian Grant, Tennessee Valley Authority; and Frank Lambert, Georgia Tech/NEETRAC

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a strong advocate of finding new and innovative ways to modernize the grid. Through the Smart Wire Focused Initiative (SWFI), sponsored by the National Electric Energy Testing, Research and Applications Center (NEETRAC), TVA has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Advanced Research Projects Agency–Electric (ARPA-E) and Smart Wire Grid Inc. (SWG) to deploy an array of distributed series reactance (DSR) units. The system is designed to provide congestion relief by redistributing power flow, thereby improving transmission system operations. The goal of this test bed is to prove this new technology can address flow-control issues in a cost-effective manner and be deployed with little, if any, outage time.

The hardware consists of an array of DSRs that easily clamp onto a transmission conductor. TVA has installed 99 DSRs (33 per phase, covering 17 tower spans) on a 161-kV transmission line near Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S. The DSRs allow operators to manage the current flow on the line by injecting inductive reactance on command, and they can be programmed to operate autonomously or with full operator control and provide distributed line sensing and monitoring. The distribution of the devices allows operators to vary the line impedance according to system needs. By using large numbers of low-cost, mass-produced devices, each array becomes immune to individual device failures.

TVA is leading a demonstration, supported by funding from NEETRAC’s SWFI members — TVA, Southern Company, Baltimore Gas & Electric and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association — the DOE’s ARPA-E and the utility’s own energy delivery organization. This project represents a milestone in moving the smart wire technology from concept to development and into utility operations. The concept was created in 2005 by Dr. Deepak Divan, who is now at Georgia Tech. In 2006, the California Energy Commission provided basic lab development funding to Georgia Tech. Smart Wire was identified as a key enabling smart- grid-control technology in the DOE’s Modern Grid Initiative 2007 report.

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Greentech Media: Smart Wire Grid Wins First Customer for Its Power Flow Control


TVA has a large pilot, while Southern Company chooses the smart grid startup for power control.

At the ARPA-E Energy Summit in Washington, D.C. last month, Smart Wire Grid had something of a coming-out party. The company has been around for a few years after growing out of Georgia Tech, but it was at the annual summit that Smart Wire Grid, a power flow controls company, was showcased as one of the successes of the Department of Energy’s research program.

Smart Wire Grid’s pilot with Tennessee Valley Authority was featured in a video between keynote sessions. But the Oakland, Calif.-based company is already moving beyond pilots with its first commercial customer, Southern Company.

Utilities are increasingly looking for solutions to make better use of existing transmission lines, as some might always be underutilized while others get overloaded. Last fall, Smart Wire Grid received nearly $4 million from ARPA-E as part of its Green Electricity Network Integration (GENI) program. Other universities, and companies like Varentec, AutoGrid and GE, are also looking for novel, lower-cost solutions for power flow control with funding from the GENI program.

The technology from the Georgia Tech spin-off involves 150- to 250-pound modules (essentially a single-turn transformer) that are clamped onto the transmission grid. The modules have a magnetic steel core with a secondary lining. When the secondary is opened, it injects inductance into the line and acts as a choke, according to Stewart Ramsay, CEO of Smart Wire Grid. When the line is choked, the power is rerouted over different lines.

“It allows you to valve the transmission line,” he said. “It’s not quite like a kitchen faucet, because you can’t go to zero.”

TVA is testing the technology as part of its Technology Innovation program. The utility has 99 devices across about twenty miles of transmission lines. The pilot will help determine what kind of congestion relief is needed, said DeJim Lowe, senior manager of grid modernization technology at TVA. “The idea down the line is that these would be dynamically controlled.”

The modules could be used in an outage situation to reroute power, or to help balance the flow of renewables across the transmission grid. Older technologies have been around for decades that can help control power flow on the grid, such as air-core reactors or traditional flexible alternating current transmission systems (FACTS), but they are centralized, said Ramsay. “The difficulty with all of the conventional technologies,” he added, “is that it’s all or nothing.”

Smart Wire Grid’s modules, on the other hand, can be wirelessly controlled by the grid operator over whichever communications protocol they prefer, or can be programmed to respond automatically when the line hits a certain loading point. In the past, the hardware needed for this sort of control on the grid would have been too heavy, even for transmission wires, but advancements in magnetic steel have allowed for cost-effective modules at a reasonable weight.

The advantage is also about space and time. The traditional technologies take up substantial space in a substation and can take a long time to install. TVA, which has had the devices up for about three months, said each module took about fifteen minutes to install, and the entire deployment took about four days. When compared to upgrading a transmission line, which could take months, the savings in downtime is significant. Smart Wire Grid has attracted a $10 million series A ($7 million of which has been paid out) from 3X5 Fund and RiverVest Venture Partners.

Currently, TVA, which has supported the technology since its development in 2005, is testing the modules to see if they perform as anticipated and then will run through different use cases over the next year. At Southern Company, which will start deploying 42 devices next week, the utility is interested in retiring some of its air-core reactors to use the substation space for other equipment, according to Ramsay.

Smart Wire Grid’s modules are not the right power flow control solution for every scenario. Ramsay noted that if a utility needs 50 percent more capacity on a line, the distributed technology cannot provide that, but for a line that’s overloaded up to about 15 percent of the time, the modules are a good fit.

Like some other next-generation power flow control technologies, the Smart Wire Grid modules provide a level of visibility on the transmission grid that operators have not had before. Although the company has built out a handful of business cases around different use scenarios, Ramsay said that when they sit down with utilities, “they bring up even more possibilities we haven’t thought of.”

Early talks with potential customers have revealed that it’s the flexibility of the devices that utilities are finding appealing. They don’t have to stay on the same transmission line for their entire lifespan; instead, the modules could be moved as more renewables are deployed or as transmission lines face new constraints.

For TVA, if the pilot were to go as planned (which is still too early to predict), the utility is already toying with the idea that the modules could be moved around to different locations.

Smart Wire Grid is currently focusing on the transmission grid, because Ramsay said that’s where the utilities are looking for solutions, but the company also has designs for a distribution grid module.

Original article.

Greentech Media: How ARPA-E Is Working to Create the 21st Century Smart Grid

Jeff St. John, Greentech Media

A roundup of the innovative grid-focused technologies funded by the Energy Department’s blue-sky research program.

ARPA-E, the Department of Energy’s $770-million-and-counting investment into cutting-edge energy technologies, has mainly focused its funding on renewable energy (the SunShot initiative is an outgrowth of ARPA-E), biofuels, energy storage and power electronics.

But there’s also a fair share of smart-grid-specific technologies under the ARPA-E umbrella. In October 2011, the agency formed its Green Electricity Network Integration (GENI) program, aimed specifically at technologies to “modernize the way electricity is transmitted in the U.S.” The focus here is on integrating intermittent renewables like wind and solar power, both at utility and at distributed scale.

Power flow control hardware has been a particular focus of the GENI program —  Smart Wire Grid, a startup that’s deploying distributed power flow control devices on transmission lines in a project with the federal Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), was one company highlighted at the conference. Another noteworthy GENI grant winner is Varentec, the Khosla Ventures-backed startup with a $5 million APRA-E grant that’s building digital power sensor and control technologies for the grid.

Original article.

Green Optimist: Smart Wire Grid’s Low-Cost Devices Deployed in Georgia

by Benji Jerew

Smart grid technology, on the other hand, doesn’t require extensive replacement, but only add-on information systems. Implementation of smart grid technology can speed up repairs and isolate damaged sections while keeping intact sections powered up. Smart Wire Grid, a startup out of Oakland, CA, has been installing its information devices, Distributed Series Reactors [DSR], on power grid lines of the Tennessee Valley Authority, and is now moving to Southern Company, a power company based in Atlanta Georgia.

Smart Wire Grid’s DSRs function like internet nodes, constantly monitoring power flow and enabling the rerouting of power when necessary, whether to manage demand and grid utilization, or to isolate damaged sections. The add-on devices are low-cost and easily implemented, and better management using smart grid technology can go a long way toward extending the life of a power grid and make repairs easier. The success of the TSA project has led Georgia-based Southern Company to look at the new technology, and Smart Wire Grid is also talking with Bonneville Power Association for another pilot program.

Original Article.

GigaOm: A startup quietly delivers smart wires to big power players

Katie Fehrenbacher, GigaOm

Summary: Startup Smart Wire Grid in Oakland is making transmission lines act more like the smart infrastructure of the Internet. Using its power flow control devices, utilities can prevent outages by routing power around the transmission grid when it’s needed.

Out of the hundreds of energy innovations on display this week at the annual ARPA-E Summit just outside of Washington D.C., it’s been rare to find a group actually selling and shipping products. But a startup out of Oakland, Calif. called Smart Wire Grid has quietly begun delivering devices that clamp onto transmission lines and control the flow of power, and it has scored some of the bigger names in the power company business. In a few weeks Smart Wire Grid plans to install its devices on the lines of power giant Southern Company, following a pilot installation of 99 of its devices on the lines of the federally-owned Tennessee Valley Authority.

Smart Wire Grid’s devices — called Distributed Series Reactors or DSRs — can be hooked onto transmission lines and signal to the electrons coming down the line to go elsewhere. It’s a similar concept to how internet infrastructure can allocate more bandwidth when needed or can smartly route around problem areas in the network.

For utilities, such technology can be a low cost way to push power to underutilized lines and to avoid over usage of certain lines that can lead to costly outages. The DSRs can also be networked with wireless technology to create a smart network of power flow and monitoring devices.

Smart Wire Grid’s Senior Engineer Andrija Sadikovic told me that while there are other ways for utilities to monitor and control the flow of power, the company’s devices are a super fast and super-low cost way to do it. It took less than four days to install the devices and fix TVA’s outage management problem, said Sadikovic. And after certain problems have been fixed for a section of the transmission line, utilities can move and reuse the devices on other lines. Smart Wire Grid founder Woody Gibson told a reporter last that year that the company was also having conversations with Bonneville Power Association for a pilot.

It’s probably not a shocker to anyone that it’s easier for startups selling smart-grid tech to reach commercialization, compared to the nuclear power projects or new battery makers hanging out at ARPA-E. While utilities aren’t the fastest moving customers, some of them are willing to test out and trial new IT-based software and hardware, particularly if it can reduce costs elsewhere and improve reliability.

Smart Wire Grid, which is utilizing technology developed at Georgia Tech, was able to score a $4 million grant from ARPA-E for the pilot project with TVA. The pilot also included partners Boeing, and Carnegie Mellon University. The company will monitor the devices for a year and collect data about how they perform.

Smart Wire Grid closed on a $10 million round of equity financing from investors including new investor 3×5 Fund, which is backed by Arnerich Massena and Rivervest, along with Jane Capital. The company plans to raise another round later this year.

Original Article.

Market Brief: Smart Wire Grid, Inc. raises $3,000,000 as noted in SEC Filing

by Jason Zucchetto

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Smart Wire Grid, Inc. has raised $3,000,000 of a $10,000,000 private offering. Smart Wire Grid, Inc. reported this private offering September 27, 2011 in an SEC Filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (Form D).

Smart Wire Grid, Inc. reported no revenue according to the SEC Filing detailing the transaction. The type of investment being offered was listed as equity (opposed to debt, warrants, or other types of investment options). The first date of sale for the offering was noted as September 22, 2011. As of today, $10,000,000 is being offered, $3,000,000 has been sold, and $7,000,000 remains to be sold.

Let’s take a quick look at Smart Wire Grid, Inc.’s fundraising history. This is the first Form D we’ve seen from Smart Wire Grid, Inc.. This doesn’t mean they haven’t raised money in the past, this is only the first time they’ve raised money and created a new class of securities with the SEC. Smart Wire Grid, Inc.’s complete history can be viewed here.

Original article.