Smart Wire Grid may hold key to power transmission woes
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Arnerich Massena-backed Smart Wire Grid has a device that could help utilities get more capacity from their power lines, solving what has been a detriment to renewable energy development.
A Bay Area company backed by a prominent Portland investor may hold the key to grid transmission issues that are throwing up roadblocks to renewable energy integration.
Smart Wire Grid Inc., backed by an Arnerich Massena-run private equity fund, is poised to start a nationwide pilot program to test its device, which attaches to power lines to improve the communication and performance of the grid.
"It goes on lines that are congested," said Woody Gibson, chief operating officer and founder of Smart Wire Grid.
As an example of what Smart Wire devices can achieve, consider the distinctly Northwest issue of overgeneration — times when an oversupply of water causes too much hydropower to overwhelm Bonneville Power Administration's system. This spring, for the second year in a row, the situation prompted BPA to require wind energy operators feeding into its system to suspend operations. A device like the one Smart Wire Grid is developing could address the issue from a transmission perspective by increasing the capacity on power lines.
Smart Wire Grid officials estimate that between $3 billion and $5 billion per year is lost due to grid congestion.
"What we're trying to do is pretty important to the power industry," Gibson said.
Employing the appropriate amount of skepticism for an early-stage investor, Tony Arnerich, CEO and chief investment officer for Arnerich Massena puts it this way: "If it works, it's the holy grail of electrical transmission."
Arnerich believes in the proposition enough that he's invested $7 million dollars so far in Smart Wire Grid, with another $3 million set aside to close out the Series A round later this year, providing that the company hits a final set of milestones.
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