AES looks to grid virtualisation to grow clean energy


US energy company AES is harnessing the expertise of X, the moonshot factory to develop new grid virtualisation technologies.

AES and X, formerly Google X, are developing and using the tools to simulate and virtualise AES’s distribution grids in Indiana and Ohio.

The near real-time virtualisation is intended to accelerate the addition of clean energy resources on to the grid by testing new ideas, improving reliability and optimising operations and ultimately reducing costs.

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

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“We are proud to be among the first to embrace these grid virtualisation tools from X in our smart grid strategy. Our goal is to build a modern and green grid to benefit all.”

Virtualisation of the electricity grid is one of X’s ‘moonshot’ projects in which radical breakthroughs are sought for major problems that affect large numbers of people. X announced the initiative in April earlier in the year, stating it had been under way for over three years, with the goal to interest early innovation partners to explore and develop grid virtualisation.

Some key issues are the detailed virtualisation of real time bi-directional power flows, highly accurate solar and wind resource forecasting and the development of prediction tools for periods from a few nanoseconds to decades into the future.

“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,” explained Audrey Zibelman, Vice President and General Manager for X’s electric grid team and former CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator.

“We are developing new computational and virtualisation tools designed to give everyone who manages and operates the grid the ability to plan, build, and manage a clean and resilient grid.”

AES has an earlier relationship with Google, including a 10-year strategic alliance formed in 2019 to leverage Google Cloud technology to accelerate innovation in energy distribution and management and an agreement to supply 24/7 carbon-free energy for Google data centres in Virginia.