CIGRE’ eNewsletter: Introducing the SmartValve™

USNC CIGRÉ News Issue 16 | FY16 Q2

Sponsor’s Corner: Introducing the SmartValve™
The utility industry is facing tremendous uncertainty – unpredictable future load, the rapid growth of renewables, difficulty building new lines, and major changes and costs associated with power generation.

Some forward-thinking, customer-focused, environmentally aware leaders are considering new types of investments to address their most critical issues. Smart Wires has partnered with four of these utility leaders (one of which is based in Europe) to begin pilot programs in Q2 2016 with a revolutionary new power flow device – the Smart Wires SmartValve™.

The SmartValve is one of two key technologies offered by Smart Wires, a leading grid solutions company that works collaboratively with electric utilities to strategically implement power flow control technology. Smart Wires’ first product, the PowerLine Guardian™ pushes power away from heavily loaded lines onto other lines with available capacity.

The SmartValve leverages and builds upon the proven PowerLine Guardian technology. Using revolutionary power electronics, the SmartValve increases or decreases line impedance as needed, enabling the operator to push and pull power in real-time.

Smart Wires is working with progressive utilities to transform their grids into flexible, dynamic, and highly resilient assets. Smart Wires works with their customers to optimize the flow of power through their grid, enabling them to prioritize network upgrade projects, improve the integration of renewable energy, address near-term transmission constraints, and reduce network congestion.

Smart Wires’ modular approach to grid infrastructure is unique and has several advantages over incumbent power flow control solutions that typically require long-lead times, are highly complex, demand significant capital investment, and ultimately represent single points of failure. Scalability, optionality, reduced lead time, and re-deployability are unique benefits of the Smart Wires approach.

Smart Wires in AEE Article on FACTS Devices

THIS IS ADVANCED ENERGY: Flexible Alternating Current Transmission Systems


This post is one in a series featuring the complete slate of advanced energy technologies outlined in the report This Is Advanced Energy


Image courtesy of Smart Wires

Flexible Alternating Current Transmissions Systems (FACTS) include technologies that increase transmission system efficiency, maintain power quality, and respond quickly to disruptions to maintain reliability of the bulk power system. FACTS can be used to manipulate the conditions on transmission lines to keep AC power in balance by maintaining voltage stability, keeping current and voltage “in sync,” and dampening distortions. Transmission operators have always had to perform these functions, but in the past they used devices that relied on mechanical switches that performed more slowly, less efficiently, and less reliably. By dynamically managing AC power and line conditions, FACTS can raise the carrying capacity of existing lines, route power more efficiently, and direct power flow along contractual paths. Additionally, in regions with high renewable power penetration, FACTS can provide frequency response that traditionally required inefficient spinning generators.

The first FACTS technologies were deployed in the 1970s, starting with Static VAR Compensators (SVCs). Since then FACTS technologies have continued to grow in variety and sophistication; Navigant Research estimates that $42 billion will be invested in FACTS globally between 2014 and 2023. The U.S. grid already relies to some extent on FACTS to provide reliability, power quality, and control. In Texas, leading FACTS provider ABB installed four SVCs to allow existing transmission lines to carry more wind power and compensate for changes in voltage and power flow that can occur with variable output of wind generation. ABB also installed an SVC and two mechanically switched capacitors (MSCs) in Alaska to provide dynamic voltage control to a remote area of the grid subject to reliability challenges. FACTS technology can also be deployed incrementally as required to monitor line current and augment line impedance. The Tennessee Valley Authority and Southern Company are both using devices from Smart Wires to manage power flow, maintain reliability, and integrate higher levels of renewable generation.

By improving the performance of the existing grid, FACTS avoid the need to invest in costly new infrastructure subject to siting and permitting challenges. FACTS are also able to integrate variable renewable generation while delivering the reliability and power quality that are increasingly important in our IT-driven economy. Finally, by extending the operating range and capacity of transmission lines and enabling power to flow along contractual paths, FACTS can help increase competition and allow power markets to function more effectively.

Original article here.

Smart Wires’ VP of Asia Pacific Interviewed for CLSA University Report

Cover Page CLSA JapanYves Meyer, Vice President of Asia-Pacific Sales, Smart Wires was recently interviewed for the CLSA U report Cleaning Up the mix: Disruption in Japan’s power grid. He discusses the state of power flow control technology and its potential to smarten the grid. Below are remarks from his interview:

What are the incumbent technologies for power flow control for T&D?

Incumbent power flow control technologies for the T&D industry are typically classified as Flexible Alternating Current Transmission System (FACTS) devices. These technologies use sophisticated power electronics to compensate transmission lines and thereby control and improve network power throughput. The reliability of these technologies continues to improve, but their general form factor has not changed in recent decades.

In contrast to FACTS, which tend to be centralized and highly custom, Smart Wires leverages modular building blocks that can be easily integrated into existing transmission networks to improve utilization and alleviate congestion

What are the drivers of power flow technology development?

The key driver for power flow control technology development is unprecedented rapid change of the power system. Generation sources and their locations are changing and there is ever increasing uncertainty around the future of coal and nuclear resources. Utilities will also need to respond to the challenges ahead in meeting the world’s carbon targets. Furthermore, the ways that consumers are interfacing with their distribution networks are evolving with the advent of distributed energy resources. The transmission system was not conceived to accommodate the pace of these changes. Introducing power flow control elements allows this grid to be rapidly repurposed for today’s and future realities.

What are the some of the technical challenges to deploying effective power flow solutions?

Reliable performance is critical for electric utilities. The notion of “keeping lights on” is by far the most important core mission for these service providers. Technologies deployed by electric utilities must be able to withstand harsh environmental conditions for decades with as little maintenance as possible. Designing and building technology to meet those needs, and that operates reliability and safely, both physically and from a cybersecurity perspective, is the critical challenge for solution providers.

What kinds of business innovations are needed to make power flow control affordable?

Affordability is not a barrier facing power flow control solutions. Building a new transmission line is incredibly expensive but is often the preferred and known approach. And although public acceptance can be a challenge, utilities can typically justify that expense for reliability reasons. Simply put, utilities have not been incented to be innovative or to embrace change. Change can be incredibly unsettling, especially when the consequences of failure are as dramatic as they are for electric utilities.

What kinds of regulations or policies do you see as needed in this space?

By definition, rate of return regulation incentivizes utilities to invest vast amounts of capital in infrastructure projects. These schemes were put in place to ensure that monopoly entities made sufficient and regular system improvements and expansions. While more and more states and countries are considering modifications to regulations that affect utility earnings, such as performance metrics, additional work is needed to align utility and consumer incentives.

Specifically pertaining to Smart Wires, how does its technologies coordinate with utilities?

Smart Wires technology is deployed similarly to other devices that utilities operate in the field. Using utility-preferred and cyber secure communications protocols, operators in the utility control room can monitor and control Smart Wires systems, which leverages existing communication technologies (e.g. cellular, radio, etc.) as well as third-party tested encryptions. Tools like Smart Wires, which represent modular, scalable, and rapidly deployable (and redeployable) solutions, will play a key role in this power system transformation and as utilities seek to optimize their grid investments moving forward.

What are the opportunities for power flow solutions like Smart Wires’ in Japan and around the world?

In Japan’s case, Smart Wires solutions can support the integration of utility-scale solar PV and wind farms by reducing the costs and time associated with the interconnection of these new and variable generation sources.

Smart Wires solutions are most effective in states or countries with existing, fairly-meshed transmission and distribution networks. Most developed countries with robust networks are experiencing tremendous changes in generation and load, and see compelling value in these offerings.



GreenTech Media: Private Investment Tally for ARPA-E Companies: $1.25B and Counting

Energy research grants lead to venture and corporate investments in cutting-edge technologies—as well as a few burnouts.

by Jeff St. John

ARPA-E, the Department of Energy’s blue-sky research program, has handed out nearly $1.3 billion in grants in the past five years — and it’s garnered nearly as much money from private-sector sources looking to move cutting-edge technologies from R&D to commercialization.

As of this week, companies backed by ARPA-E have secured more than $1.25 billion in private-sector follow-on funding, according to the latest tally coming out of this week’s ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit outside Washington, D.C. That’s up from last year’s count of about $850 million in private-sector funding on grants of $1.1 billion, and about $625 million on grants of $900 million as of 2014.

Monday’s announcement listed 45 companies, universities and research organizations that have won ARPA-E grants and received private investment. This doesn’t include companies that have held IPOs — which includes Ceres in 2012, Ideal Power in 2013 and Arcadia Biosciences last year.

We’ve been tracking a number of ARPA-E awardees over the years, with a focus on energy storage, renewable energy integration and grid-edge power electronics and software technologies. Here’s a quick tally of the significant funding events of the past year.

Transphorm, a startup developing gallium-arsenide (GaN) semiconductor technologies for more efficient power conversion, raised $70 million in Junefrom KKR.

Smart Wires, a startup with power electronics technology that’s helping to direct power flows on transmission lines, raised $30.8 million in June from 3×5 Special Opportunity Fund.

Flow battery startup Primus Power raised $25 million in September from I2BF Global Ventures and subsidiary the Russia-Kazakhstan Nanotechnology Fund.

Varentec, a startup developing power electronics devices to manage voltage and power quality on low-voltage distribution grids, raised $13 million in December.

Fluidic Energy, a zinc-air battery company, revealed in November that it has raised more than $150 million from strategic, venture and government sources, and plans to deploy its systems in partnership with Caterpillar and Indonesia’s state-owned utility.

24M Technologies, the A123 Systems spinout, unveiled details on its semi-solid lithium-ion battery technology in June, and noted that it had raised $50 million from Charles River Ventures, North Bridge Venture Partners, and strategic investors in Japan and Thailand.

1366 Technologies closed its $22.5 million C round in the spring of 2015 and announced it was building a 250-megawatt production line for its molten-silicon-to-multi-crystalline wafer technology in October.

Not all of the companies on ARPA-E’s money-raising list have made it, however. Infinia, a developer of Stirling engine systems for solar power, went bankrupt in 2013. Others are struggling to bring their technologies to commercial scale, such as compressed-air energy startup General Compression. And others have been bought up for uncertain returns on investment, as with Sun Catalytix’s acquisition by Lockheed Martin in 2014.

Original article.

PRWeb: Innovations with Ed Begley Jr. to Showcase Smart Wires for its Grid Solutions

DMG Productions explores the latest breakthroughs in grid solutions.

Jupiter, FL (PRWEB) – Innovations w/Ed Begley Jr., announced today that they will feature Smart Wires in an upcoming episode, airing second quarter 2016 via Discovery Channel. Dates and show times TBA.

Smart Wires is a grid solutions company based in the San Francisco Bay Area with offices in the UK, Australia, and Ireland. This episode of Innovations will explore Smart Wires’ dedication to developing power flow control solutions that enable electric utilities to address the unique challenges of a rapidly evolving grid. As the utility industry faces increasing uncertainty regarding future load and generation, Smart Wires technology provides utilities flexibility in adapting to a new paradigm.

“At Smart Wires, we believe the key to pioneering the future electric transmission business involves taking a modular and flexible approach to infrastructure development,” says CEO Jim Davis. “Smart Wires technology provides grid operators real-time control of the transmission network, delivering increased reliability and utilization at a lower cost and with greater penetration of renewables.”

Smart Wires works closely with its utility and transmission owner partners to design and develop a Dynamic Grid that is clean, reliable, affordable, and safe.

“This technology is rapidly becoming part of the utility tool kit as more and more electric utilities explore new ways to alleviate congestion, improve network utilization, manage changing generation profiles, and maintain reliable electric service,” said Michael Divine, Producer for the Innovations TV Series. “We look forward to enlightening viewers on this amazing technology.”

About Smart Wires:
Smart Wires is the leader in grid optimization solutions that leverage its patented modular power flow control technology. Driven by a world-class leadership team with extensive experience delivering innovative solutions, Smart Wires partners with utilities globally to address the unique challenges of the rapidly evolving electric system. Smart Wires technology was developed by utilities for utilities, led by a consortium of large US utilities at the National Electric Energy Testing Research and Applications Center (NEETRAC). This core group of utilities, which included Southern Company, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. (BG&E) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), defined the vision for the original modular power flow control solution

For more information, visit:

About Innovations and DMG Productions:
Innovations, hosted by award winning actor Ed Begley, Jr., is an information-based series geared toward educating the public on the latest breakthroughs in all areas of society. Featuring practical solutions and important issues facing consumers and professionals alike, Innovations focuses on cutting-edge advancements in everything from health and wellness to global business, renewable energy, and more.

DMG Productions (responsible for creating the Innovations show) includes personnel specialized in various fields from agriculture to medicine, independent films to regional news and more. Field producers work closely with experts in the field to develop stories. This powerful force enables DMG to consistently produce commercial-free, educational programming that both viewers and networks depend on.

For more information visit or contact Michael Devine at (866) 496-4065 x 824 or via email at michael(at)InnovationsTelevision(dot)com.

For the original version on PRWeb visit:

CIGRÉ News Issue 15: Modular Infrastructure

Smart Wires sponsors Issue 15 (FY16 Q1) of USNC CIGRÉ News

Fundamental changes are affecting the electric utility business, creating new challenges for utilities around the world as they seek to reliably serve their existing customers and to nurture growth in their service territories.

Given the dramatic changes in how electricity is generated and consumed, transmission utilities have a unique opportunity to redefine their approach to modernizing grid infrastructure while positioning their organizations for success in this new reality.

At Smart Wires, we believe the key to pioneering the future electric transmission business involves taking a modular and flexible approach to infrastructure development. Recent work by researchers at Columbia University examines the advantages of “Small Modular Infrastructure,” a strategy that challenges conventional thinking on economies of scale.

The researchers propose a novel design philosophy, “one that replaces economies-of-unit scale with economies of numbers, that phases out custom-built, large-scale installations and replaces these with large numbers of mass-produced, modular, small-unit scale technology.”

Moreover, modular units can be immediately or gradually deployed, or-redeployed as needs evolve, reducing risk and providing significant option value. In addition to highlighting the advantages of a modular design and technology approach, the research also reveals the need for revised project costing methods.

These new models should account for the economic benefits of the modular approach, including scalability, optionality, reduced lead time, and re-deployability, among others, when calculating total project investments.

We encourage you to read through the paper and look forward to exploring with you how a modular approach leveraging Smart Wires technology could deliver benefits to your business.

You can read the white paper here.

Greentech Media: How Smart Grid and Demand Response Could Fit Into the Clean Power Plan

Pathway to credits for CO2-cutting grid and demand-side tech—and a boost to solar-wind integration enablers

by Jeff St. John

Less dirty energy, more clean energy. These are the fundamental drivers of the Clean Power Plan’s push to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and while that’s a potential boon to wind and solar power, it could also provide a boost to technologies that can help integrate that renewable energy into the grid as a means to its end.

But tucked inside the Obama administration’s groundbreaking greenhouse gas reduction scheme are some even more significant opportunities for smart grid technologies, not just to indirectly boost the grid’s green power capacity, but to actively serve as a compliance tool for states’ carbon-cutting and carbon-trading plans.

Unlike previous draft versions of the plan, the final plan released by the Environmental Protection Agency last week specifically calls out technologies like energy storage and demand response, which can help “facilitate” the big boost in intermittent wind and solar power that’s likely to be a part of many states’ compliance plans.

But the current version of the CPP also designates a specific role for grid technologies that can help reduce the net amount of power being generated from carbon-emitting, fossil-fuel-fired power plants. And under certain compliance options available to states, those reductions could translate into “emission rate credits,” or ERCs, that power plant operators could implement themselves or buy to offset their GHG reduction burdens.

“There are these technologies and services that can specifically be part of a plan as a compliance measure,” Matt Stanberry, vice president of market development at business advocacy group Advanced Energy Economy, said in an interview this week. “The basic rule of thumb is, they’ve got to reduce net megawatt-hours of generation at affected units,” that is, coal- and natural-gas-fired power plants.

ERCs come up in multiple places throughout the final rule and proposed federal plan, he said. (For readers interested in delving into the subject in detail, a good place to start is on page 1,260 of the CPP [PDF], which explains how ERCs are used for compliance, and on page 1,268, which begins the discussion of ERCs for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other advanced energy technologies, he said.)

Broadly speaking, these technologies fall into two main classes, he said. The first are those that directly affect the transmission and distribution portion of the grid. “EPA explicitly recognizes as compliance measures any T&D options that reduce line losses, like volt/VAR optimization (VVO), or that reduce end-use demand, like conservation voltage reduction (CVR),” he said.

VVO and CVR are technologies that fine-tune voltages to save energy and reduce peak-driven strains on the grid. They’ve been around for decades, but in recent years have been boosted by technology advances, whether it’s the proliferation of smart meters that can deliver pinpoint voltage information at the edges of the grid, or power electronics that can directly control voltages on individual circuits.

CVR providers have made note of this new opportunity under the CPP. Scott DePasquale, CEO of Utilidata, a company that’s providing CVR technology for utilities such as AEP and National Grid, noted in a recent blog post that a study found that VVO could save Michigan about $110 million in CPP compliance costs, for example. At the transmission grid scale, startup Smart Wires is deploying devices that can help utilities constrict or redirect power flows in grid congestion conditions, to increase the amount of power that can be delivered from far-off wind and solar farms to where it’s needed.

On the demand side of the equation, the CPP does “talk about demand response as a reliability tool,” Stanberry said. “They don’t talk about demand response explicitly as a compliance mechanism, but under the demand-side management discussion, to the extent that demand response produces that reduction in net megawatt-hours, it can qualify.”

That’s a significant change from draft versions of the CPP, which considered demand response as merely shifting energy consumption, rather than directly reducing it as energy efficiency does, he noted. Even so, just how today’s panoply of demand-response activities might end up translating into verifiable reductions in carbon emissions is still very much an open question.

Of course, all of this is dependent on how individual states decide to create their CPP compliance programs — whether they choose mass-based or rate-based options, whether they decide to join multi-state compliance regimes or go it on their own, and other choices outlined in the 1,560-page final rule.

As Dan Delurey, CEO of the Association for Demand Response and Smart Grid, noted, “This is not to say that demand response and smart grid get any kind of preferential treatment in the CPP. All options will have to compete against each other to get into a state compliance plan.”

“But it does clearly put those options on the menu for states, and that is good for those in the DR and smart grid community.  And, through the new value that is created via credits for CO2 reductions, it also puts one more benefit on the pile when DR and smart grid projects are being evaluated for cost-effectiveness,” he added.

It could also open up a wide array of opportunities for investing in demand-side management programs and smart-grid technologies, Stanberry noted. That could come from utilities trying to reduce the compliance burden for their fossil-fuel-fired power plants. Or it could come from third parties investing in technologies that can provide emission reduction credits to those power plants.

“A utility might decide, ‘I want to do T&D work on my system,’” he said. “Or they might decide, ‘I want to take advantage of all the emission-reduction opportunities out there; I’m going to buy from the ERC market.’”

Original article.

T&D World: Managing an Increasingly Unpredictable Grid

Immediately Deployable Solutions

by Tom Voss, Chairman of Smart Wires


Back in 1995, Union Electric, now Ameren Missouri, pioneered a new technology to monitor power usage in the home. At the time, I was manager of distribution operations and oversaw implementation of this then-innovative tool in 1.2 million households, improving customer service and efficiency.

Remote monitoring of electricity usage was a cutting-edge concept. But our radio frequency monitoring meters quickly proved a good idea. The technology provided us with unprecedented insight to our business and enabled us to improve our service and manage the grid with a level of capability we’d never had before.

Fast forward 20 years, and the utility industry is still looking for new tools to better manage the grid, boost network utilization, optimize generation dispatch and maintain reliable service. But the challenge today is vexing

Utilities must navigate managing a grid composed of a dynamic and complex mix of generation sources, including intermittent solar and wind power, as well as traditional coal and nuclear baseload. And customer expectations around uptime are only increasing. Indeed, it’s no overstatement to say that a reliable supply of electricity is essential to keep our society working.

Further complicating the task of managing the grid is the fact that its composition is ever more dynamic. In 2014, renewables accounted for more than half of capacity additions to the U.S. grid and more will be added in the form of bulk and, in the case of solar, distributed resources as well.

Coal-fired generation is coming offline and faster than utilities expected. There is continued uncertainty around the future of nuclear. The job of maintaining balance in the electric grid is not only a moving target but also a target that moves ever more quickly and unpredictably.

Solving today’s utility challenge revolves around navigating the changes in generation and load with a limited set of transmission planning and operational tools. Utilities and operators need game-changing strategies for generation and transmission.

Tom Voss

For decades utilities have been relying on their ability to build new lines to address network challenges. But today, near-term problems are emerging that cannot be solved with these business-as-usual options.  A new line can take more than 10 years and billions of rate-payer funds to plan and implement, by which time the grid’s needs may once again have shifted. The way forward comes back to breaking new ground as Ameren did 20 years ago. This time around we need rapidly deployable and flexible solutions that offer utilities greater awareness and control over their transmission systems, and that also enable them to more effectively manage the networks they already have. Utilities need options that will allow them to strike a balance between leveraging their existing assets and deploying increasingly scarce capital for the most strategic projects.

There is of course no one silver bullet. But amongst a host of promising possibilities, utilities can now distribute power flow control technology across their networks to observe and mitigate transmission constraints.  By observing and in real-time moving power away from heavily loaded lines onto underutilized paths, utilities have a new and remarkably efficient tool for alleviating congestion, providing transmission headroom, avoiding inefficient generation, and maintaining reliable operation.

These solutions are also modular and immediately deployable, which eliminates one of the critical challenges associated with long-term planning in an era where generation and load are so unpredictable. Lastly, the technology is entirely re-deployable, which means utilities can move the solution to another location on their transmission networks as conditions evolve.

It will be challenging for the industry as it reinvents itself and considers new ways to plan and operate the grid. But let’s not forget that this is also an industry that has for more than a century been reliably running the single largest machine known to man.

Once utilities fully embrace solutions like distributed power flow control, then all manner of innovative applications and value streams will surface, just as they did at Ameren back in 1995.

Tom Voss is the chairman of Smart Wires. He is formerly chairman, president and CEO of Ameren.

Original article.