Making a Smarter Power Grid | Roger Anderson
Roger Anderson, Center for Computational Learning Systems
The advancements ushered in by the digital age have touched nearly every area of human existence in the world, from how people shop and navigate their vehicles to how they work and consume news and entertainment. However, complex power grids—which connect us with many of these relatively new technologies—are still mostly stuck in the analog age.
One man who wants to change that is senior research scientist Roger Anderson, the Con Edison Senior Scholar at Columbia Engineering’s Center for Computational Learning Systems. He and colleague Albert Boulanger have developed a patented Adaptive Stochastic Controller (ASC) technology that will be part of Con Edison’s Smart Grid Demonstration Project.
“We are trying to make the electric grid smarter, much more like the Internet, so that control systems can route power to where people need it, when they need it, and from green sources as much as possible,” says Anderson.
The ASC is an algorithm-based, machine learning system that will allow the Smart Grid to calculate, on a minute-by-minute basis, the cheapest, most efficient and most reliable ways of delivering electricity to consumers. It also will allow the Smart Grid to anticipate and respond automatically to problem events, such as weather changes and equipment failures, in order to prevent power outages.
Columbia’s role is to produce the ASC for the New York City Smart Grid Demonstration Project, funded by the federal Department of Energy (DOE), to help build a smarter, more efficient, more resilient national electric grid.
Last November, the DOE awarded Con Edison $45 million for its Secure Interoperable Open Smart Grid Demonstration Project—one of sixteen projects selected nationwide. The New York Public Service Commission will provide additional matching funds to make it the largest Smart Grid Demonstration Project in America.
Once the Smart Grid is implemented, Anderson says, “Things will happen too fast for optimal decision making by humans—even from the highly skilled operators at Con Edison.” The Smart Grid will use Columbia-designed ASC computer control to respond more quickly to power surges and emergency outages so that power can be redistributed to where it’s needed, using photovoltaics, wind, battery storage, and other green sources from areas with less demand.
“The whole idea of the Smart Grid is to have enough computer intelligence so you can control [the grid] better and make it more stable,” Anderson says.
Such technology is also being developed in Europe and China, he says, and an international utility working group has been established to share bestpractice ideas and technologies across the globe