The Binational Industrial Research and Development Energy program of the BIRD Foundation (BIRD Energy) has awarded a grant to Exacter, Inc. of Columbus, Ohio, and Razor Labs of Tel Aviv, Israel. The $950,000 grant will partially fund collaborative R&D efforts between the two companies to develop and commercialize mobile sensors that identify device-level deterioration indicators across the electric grid and correlate them to environmental factors for the prediction and prevention of power outages and wildfires.
“Currently, it’s cost-prohibitive to monitor equipment conditions across the millions of miles of power lines in the U.S.,” states John Lauletta, CEO & CTO of Exacter, Inc. “Our collaboration with Razor Labs will develop the next generation mobile sensing devices that identify at-risk equipment, and use machine learning and artificial intelligence to develop grid resilience forecasts. The sensors will locate and identify failing equipment. The system will correlate meteorological conditions, airborne contaminants, and other environmental factors to forecast future issues.”
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that power outages may cost consumers and the economy over $110 billion annually. There is also an additional direct cost to utilities and the safety of workers who repair and replace the problems during emergency outage conditions.
The Project goal is to transform the management of overhead electric grid assets by being able to monitor each piece of equipment on every mile of the distribution grid. The data will provide actionable predictive data about specific points of power outage and wildfire risk and detail corollary analytics that promote predictive, pro-active management of the grid.
“Exacter is providing the proven, patented grid sensing technology it has deployed worldwide since 2007, and Razor Labs is providing the artificial intelligence and analytics portion of the project,” states Exacter President Geoffrey Bibo. “The end product will be low-cost, multifunction sensing units that can be applied to both mobile vehicles and stationary assets.”
Both parties feel the timing is ideal for this project because the Smart Cities movement and organizations like the Utility Analytics Institute are promoting the use of predictive intelligence to better manage and minimize risk to critical infrastructures.
“This is a project that utility thought-leaders are going to keep their eyes on because it has the potential to be truly transformative. For the first time, the people managing the grid will have access to a new level of information and intelligence to pre-empt problems and proactively anticipate conditions-based issues,” says Exacter CEO Lauletta.
The University of Akron Center for Advanced Vehicles Energy Systems has been instrumental in working with Exacter to integrate the technology. The sensors convert any vehicle into an overhead grid analysis machine. The sensors do not alter the vehicle and are completely autonomous.
“This project will be a transformative demonstration of machine learning and artificial intelligence applied to the management of the U.S. power grid. The direct beneficiaries will be residential and commercial/industrial users of power, investor-owned utilities, cooperative utilities, municipal utilities, and the U.S. economy,” concludes Lauletta. “What makes the project more exciting is the scalability of the technology enabling national grid assessment. The mobile sensors are low cost, and can be used to leverage existing fleets of city, county, utility, and commercial vehicles that are already driving along the grid every day. Leveraging these vehicles for non-invasive mobile assessment purposes can quickly and easily put a lot of useful information and insights at the fingertips of our electrical system managers.”
BIRD Energy began in 2009 as a result of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Since then, BIRD Energy has funded close to 40 projects, with a total investment of close to $35 million.