Pulitzer winning climate news

Mass. Startup Wants to Build a Power Grid That Looks Like the Internet


Will tomorrow’s power grid look much more like the Internet than it does today with decentralized and distributed networking? That’s the idea behind Gridco Systems, a startup founded by Naimish Patel, a serial entrepreneur who previously was the co-founding CTO of optical networking company Sycamore Networks. Patel and his team are using digital solid state transformers and software that ingests data in real time to create a new type of distributed control and power electronics networking product for utilities that looks far more like an Internet network product than a utility tool.

Three-year-old Gridco is selling this networking gear and software to utilities to enable them to have greater control over their networks and to be able to maintain a greater degree of reliability, more similar to the reliability that Internet companies currently have, and utilities rarely have. The promise is that potential utility customers can have self-healing, and smarter grids, so when one section of a grid goes down, other areas of the grid can route around that section and the overall system can maintain function.

With old-school electromechanical grid equipment, which is the dominant form of grid power electronics today,  it’s hard to create this type a resilient grid. The sector needs digital control systems, says Patel, to enable the installation of widespread solar panels and wind turbines. These type of new solid state transformers are new, and so is the combo of using them with more sophisticated digital networking tools.