If you know anything about the electrical grid, odds are it’s that it’s a pretty wild place. Well, maybe not in terms of the actual equipment itself—although power lines, transformers and substations are pretty cool—but certainly in terms of how the dynamics of supply and demand play out on the local, regional and national scale. In the past, when supply was most limited (i.e., when more people are using more electricity, such as in the late afternoon in the summer when people get home from work and crank up the AC), there was nothing that could really be done about it. Consumers got hit with higher prices in the best case scenario. In the worst, brown outs ensued.
With the advent of “micro-grid” technology, or small, partially independent grids, that’s changing. Lots of institutions and buildings now have their own means of generating a substantial amount of energy via solar installations or wind turbines. Sometimes, they even produce more electricity than needed. A Portland-based company is now working to find dynamic ways for those micro-grids to channel excess power back into the grid and into markets experiencing “peaks.”
Introspective Systems recently received almost one-million dollars in funding to further develop this concept. The means of achieving this surprisingly complicated goal are, essentially, math—and lots of it. The company plans to find algorithmic ways to identify peak markets and micro-grids capable of redistributing energy to them in real time.
So if you happen to be wandering through downtown Portland sometime soon and feel a faint vibration under your feet, don’t worry. It’s probably just the hum of the sheer human brain power reverberating within the Introspective office.