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Getty Images 1418475387
Getty Images 1418475387
Getty Images 1418475387
Getty Images 1418475387

A Smarter Grid With AI

April 14, 2023
Businesses not taking advantage of sophisticated AI enhanced tools will place themselves at a tremendous disadvantage over those who are using them.

A couple new artificial intelligence (AI)-powered applications were in the latest upgrade for my computer’s photographic suite. I use one to restore ancient photos of long-gone ancestors I found fading away in an old family album. The other colorizes those old photos, making them seem a little more natural. I also found an AI app  that animates portraits. I can’t wait to try it. I know I’m a techno-junkie, but I do find all the advancements fascinating.

Currently that’s probably not the best thing to admit to, especially with all of the mainstream media's attention on "AI." The most recent upset came about with those latest AI apps that can write and take tests. All you have to do is give the app a subject, and it will deliver written works on demand. Some of the examples I have seen look pretty good. There is, however, a great deal of critical pushback from many different sectors predicting dire consequences.

Critics warned that people will lose their ability to write, and students will cheat their way through school. It reminds me of when I was an undergraduate and the pocket scientific calculator was introduced. Critics warned that people would lose their ability to do math and students would cheat their way through school. Guess what, my instructors used the calculators too.

That resulted in my homework and exams getting a heck of a lot harder. My professors expected more from their students. Test questions became more complicated, and we became more efficient with our test time. I’d be willing to bet that critics of the time said similar things when the abacus was introduced!

Challenged Exponentially

I do agree that the growing use of AI is something to be careful about, but it’s a tool and all tools have to be used correctly. Listening to the hue and cry about the dangers of AI sounded like the “Exponentially Challenged” subject discussed in the March, 2023 “Charging Ahead” editorial (https://tdworld.com/21259377). There is no denying it, the deployment of AI apps is a game changer. Like all technological advancements there are going to be pros and cons, but it’s just part of the process.

Consider the smart meter. It was met with some resistance, but has proven its worth and now another technological improvement is happening. Smart meters don’t have computing power, but what if they did? That’s where AI comes into play. The customer’s side of the meter has a lot of technology being deployed on it.

Things like DER (distributed energy resources), EV (electric vehicle) chargers, smart appliances, and other devices are installed there. Recently, Bloomberg announced that Utilidata and NVIDIA have developed a custom module that brings AI to the customer’s meter. It's a first-generation AI platform installed next to the meter. It was field tested last year in Lake Placid at New York Public Power Community. Bloomberg said the companies are ready to deliver this latest application.   

Another AI application is improving EV chargers. These devices are being deployed in growing numbers and AI charging management systems are making chargers more efficient. Hitachi Energy has developed intelligent hardware and sophisticated software for EV fleets using AI technology to manage EV fleet charging in real-time. This aids the fleet owners and the utilities when it comes to balancing load and source requirements more efficiently.

AI is also starting to impact the world of virtual power plants (VPP) as it is integrated into complex VPP real-time data management schemes. To be successful VPPs need to be able to utilize all the DERs available, making them all act as one generation plant and that’s where AI comes in. VPP systems with AI monitor the grid and predict how much power is needed and matches the aggregated generation to that prediction. Utilities and aggregators are taking advantage of these VPP applications from suppliers such as GE, Hitachi Energy, Siemens Energy, and others.

There are many other examples of AI being integrated into smart grid equipment and operating systems, but you get the point. As the power grid gets more complex, AI is becoming an integral part. It’s a good bet that there are going to be some bumps along the road, but one thing is certain. Businesses not taking advantage of sophisticated AI enhanced tools will place themselves at a tremendous disadvantage over those who are using them. It’s going to be uncomfortable, perhaps disruptive, but exciting!   

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