AES Ohio to work with Google’s ‘X’ division to advance grid modernization

Utility working to “virtualize” grid capabilities

AES Ohio is working with the research division of Google’s parent company to better understand how to run its grid efficiently and cleanly.

AES Corp. is working with X — formerly Google X, a company which calls itself “the moonshot factory” — to “virtualize” its electric power distribution grid to simulate and model how to improve reliability, while relying further on “clean energy resources,” the utility said.

“AES and X are using the tools to simulate and virtualize AES’ distribution grids in Indiana and Ohio,” the power company said Tuesday. “The near real-time grid virtualization technologies will improve the customer experience by testing new ideas, optimizing the grid for renewables, improving reliability and building new efficiencies into the system.”

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“One of the biggest obstacles to shifting to a renewable and reliable electric system is having a complete real-time picture of what is happening on the electric grid, “Audrey Zibelman, vice president and general manager for X’s electric grid team, said in the AES release. “We are developing new computational and virtualization tools designed to give everyone who manages and operates the grid the ability to plan, build, and manage a clean and resilient grid.”

As X put it in an April 2021 blog post: “Right now our work is more questions than answers, but the central hypothesis we’ve been exploring is whether creating a single virtualized view of the grid — which doesn’t exist today — could make the grid easier to visualize, plan, build and operate with all kinds of clean energy.”

Asked whether the project will involve any mapping or inventory work in the Dayton area, an AES spokeswoman said X is supplying the relevant technology but AES is doing the work locally.

X said it announced the project in April “because it’s not possible to explore this further without the close collaboration of organizations who know the intricacies of the grid — from grid operators to power system engineers to infrastructure experts, to the countries, cities, and towns who depend on it.”

“We believe the future of energy is clean, reliable, affordable and accessible to all,” said Kristina Lund, AES president for US utilities. “By combining X’s technical expertise with our industry experience and insights, we’re accelerating that future.”

The goal is better clarity. In its blog, an X writer said the grid operators have to make decisions about power distribution “without full visibility into all the new and intermittent power sources coming onto the grid, like wind turbines or solar panels. And they don’t have visibility into how energy is flowing in real time.”

“There is no global map or end-to-end aggregated view that gives every operator a consistent, full view of what’s happening on the grid from power plants down to the solar panels on your roof,” X wrote.

AES’ partnership with Google is not altogether new. This latest announcement complements the 10-year alliance that AES formed with Google in 2019 to use Google cloud technology to advance energy distribution and AES’ agreement to supply 24/7 carbon-free energy to Google data centers in Virginia.

Formerly Dayton Power & Light, AES Ohio serves more than 527,000 customer accounts, representing 1.25 million people in West Central Ohio.

X the Moonshot Factory is a research and development business Google formed in 2010. It is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company.

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