Based on the successes and excitement resulting from three pilot programs that involved over 30 utilities, numerous Fortune 100 companies, and the Department of Energy, the I-Grid(tm) web-based power monitoring system was commercially released at DistribuTECH 2003 in Las Vegas last month.
The I-Grid (www.i-grid.com) is a web-based, real-time distributed power quality and reliability (PQ&R) monitoring and notification system that uses ultra low-cost I-Sense(tm) monitors. The ability to offer an ultra-low cost monitor without sacrificing significant capability has been the source of much of the excitement generated by the pilot programs, according to SoftSwitching Technologies, the company introducing I-Grid.
“The key business model innovation was to move most of the ‘intelligence’ that is typically built into power quality monitors off the monitor and onto a central server and web site. Reducing the monitors’ primary function to data capture and transmission enabled a very low cost design,” explained Dr. Deepak Divan, CEO of SoftSwitching Technologies and inventor of the I-Grid.
“Further,” Dr. Divan continued, “this web-centric approach eliminated the need for users to invest in expensive software and infrastructure. The net effect is that utilities now have available- for the first time, a powerful system for improving customer service and managing their grid at a price point that is not only affordable, but lower than anyone ever dreamed possible.”
The I-Grid’s potential impact was widely recognized among the thirty-plus utilities involved in the utility pilot program. David Hall of WE Energies noted, “A system-wide (grid) monitoring effort would help to improve customer service. But using present (pre- I-Grid) technology, that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Jim Worley of East Kentucky Power Cooperative, illustrating the dramatic impact the I-Grid may have on rural and cooperative utilities, stated, “I am really excited about the web-based I-Grid system. It gives me power quality monitoring, notification, and all the information I need–all at an unbelievable price of $200-$300 per monitor. In fact, I plan on replacing each of my existing $13,000 PQ monitors with the I-Grid system.”
Through the three pilot programs, approximately 1,000 I-Sense power monitors have been shipped and deployed in over 40 states, and over 35,000 power quality events have been recorded to date. Utility I-Grid applications explored range from monitoring customer sites, substations, and feeders, to outage reporting and enabling delivery of value-added services. Fortune 100 and middle-market manufacturers are using the I-Grid to analyze and receive notification of the PQ&R events that shut down their production processes and plants. A Department of Energy-funded I-Grid pilot program in Silicon Valley is designed to determine how the I-Grid can help measure the impact of power quality on the U.S. economy.