Donate to Science & Enterprise

S&E on Mastodon

S&E on LinkedIn

S&E on Flipboard

Please share Science & Enterprise

Report: Research Triangle Becoming Smart-Grid R&D Cluster

PowerLines at sunset (Brookhaven National Lab)

(Brookhaven National Lab)

A new report by Duke University’s Center for Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness (CGGC) assesses the capabilities of North Carolina, particularly the 13-county Research Triangle region, to serve as a hub for developing advanced technologies to better manage electrical power. A smart grid, as this collection of technologies is called, promises to make the outdated U.S. power system more reliable, preventing outages and blackouts, and help reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

The report affirmed another recent CGGC report showing a concentration of leading smart grid vendor firms in North Carolina, exceeded only at a statewide level by California. Raleigh, North Carolina alone served as headquarters to five smart-grid technology companies, second nationally to San Francisco.

North Carolina statewide, the report notes, has amassed important assets to make it a hub for smart grid R&D. Among those assets are specialized research centers, such as the Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management Systems (FREEDM) Center at North Carolina State University. The state also has Tier-1 research universities turning out a highly trained workforce, and energy efficiency and renewable energy firms — 546 at last count.

North Carolina likewise has industrial-scale smart grid projects underway, such as urban electrical vehicle charging stations, and one of the world’s largest microgrids at the U.S. Army’s Fort Bragg. In addition, the state will soon be the home to the nation’s largest utility, with 7.1 million customers, upon the completion of the upcoming merger of Charlotte-based Duke Energy and Raleigh-based Progress Energy.

The Research Triangle region itself has 59 companies at 101 locations building smart grid equipment, writing software, or providing services, and employing some 3,000 people. The companies range from multinationals in power systems (ABB, GE, Siemens), information technology (Cisco, IBM), and energy services (Honeywell, Johnson Controls), to small specialty ventures, such as GRIDiant and Plotwatt.

The report points out that the smart grid companies located in the Research Triangle cover the entire electric power value chain from generation and transmission, through distribution, to end-user management, both commercial/industrial and residential. Moreover, the companies are also spread over the eight major technology categories identified by the International Energy Agency. The current companies tend to focus more on information and communications technology integration, followed by building energy management, and advanced metering infrastructure. In addition, there are more software than hardware companies in the mix.

Based on a study by the Electric Power Research Institute, the CGGC report identified the three most critical technology targets for smart grid investment over the next 20 years: distribution grid management, transmission enhancement, and information technology/ communications integration. The last category — information technology/ communications integration — is one that Research Triangle companies already have well covered. The first two technologies — grid management and transmission enhancement — are areas where the region’s companies will need to be better represented.

Read more:

*     *     *

1 comment to Report: Research Triangle Becoming Smart-Grid R&D Cluster