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Utilidata, NVIDIA Collaborate on Smart Grid Chip

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The industry leading grid-edge software company Utilidata has announced that it is working with NVIDIA to develop a software-defined smart grid chip. The new chip will be powered by NVIDIA’s AI platform and embedded in smart meters. This new approach will enhance grid resiliency, integrate distributed energy resources (DERs) like solar and electric vehicles (EVs), and accelerate the transition to a decarbonized grid.

Improving Grid Operations

The software-defined smart chip will be first tested by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The NREL will focus on using the chip as a way to scale and commercialize the lab’s Real-Time Optimal Power Flow (RT-OPF) technology, which is supported by the Solar Energy Technologies Office Technology Commercialization Fund.

The RT-OPF was first developed with funding from DOE’s Advanced Research Projects – Energy (ARPA-E) program, and it enables highly localized load control to seamlessly integrate an increasing number of DERs. It will also contribute to increased stability and efficiency within grid operations. 

Santosh Veda is Group Manager for Grid Automation and Controls at NREL. 

“To date, the scalability and commercial potential of technologies like RT-OPF have been limited by single-use hardware solutions,” said Veda. “By developing a smart grid chip that can be embedded in one of the most ubiquitous utility assets – the smart meter – this approach will potentially enable wider adoption and commercialization of the technology and redefine the role of edge computing for DER integration and resiliency. Enhanced situational awareness and visibility from this approach will greatly benefit both the end customers and the utility.”

The power grid continues to get more complex as an increasing number of distributed energy resources and intermittent renewables are introduced. Current meters do not have the amount of computing power needed to support real-time, autonomous grid operations, and these are crucial for decarbonization and grid resiliency. 

Utilidata’s Role

Utilidata’s patented machine learning software draws on real-time data from smart meters and distribution grid services, which is then used to detect potential system failures and outages. It also helps optimize grid operations and integrate more DERs onto the utility system. 

Marissa Hummon is Chief Technology Officer at Utilidata.

To maximize the value of DERs and integrate these resources into grid operations, utilities are going to need decentralized solutions, like RT-OPF,” said Hummon. “Existing meters don’t have the computational power or communications bandwidth to support this kind of real-time operation. But combining our real-time grid software solutions with NVIDIA’s advanced edge computing capabilities unlocks new value from the meter and offers a path to scale for solutions like NREL’s RT-OPF.”

The software-defined smart chip is built on Utilidata’s expertise in real-time grid operations, NVIDIA’s Jetson edge AI platform, and the NVIDIA AI Enterprise software suite. The chip will lead to many new opportunities for both clean energy companies and third-party market participants.

Marc Spieler is Head of Global Energy Business Development at NVIDIA. 

“Our collaboration with Utilidata and NREL to bring AI to grid edge operations will increase resiliency and reduce energy consumption and costs to consumers through new capabilities in meters,” said Spieler. “With the availability of an open, software-defined meter platform, utilities and consumers will no longer be locked into closed, proprietary systems that hamper innovation by limiting third-party applications.”

Alex McFarland is a tech writer who covers the latest developments in artificial intelligence. He has worked with AI startups and publications across the globe.