GridSense (INCON) collaborating with Introspective Systems on a groundbreaking Microgrid project at Brunswick Landing


Introspective Systems wins $987K grid grant over three contenders

Kay Aiken, CEO of Introspective Systems LLC of Portland, said the company recently won a $986,802 Phase II grant from the federal government to test its system on a microgrid. It will use real-time pricing triggers to reallocate electricity where it is needed.

 Software company Introspective Systems LLC of Portland said it has won a $986,802 Phase II grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for additional work to develop complex software frameworks that can help small energy grids reallocate resources based on price triggers.

Introspective CEO Kay Aiken told Mainebiz the company heard it won the award on June 20. The DOE grant, administered through the Small Business Innovation Research program, runs for two years. It follows a $146,683 Phase I grant the company won against 24 contenders in July 2016 and that ran until March 13, 2017.

The Phase I grant involved the company designing an architecture for devices such as household refrigerators to attach to the electric grid, with the aim for the DOE to eventually have a more robust national electric grid. The project is part of the DOE's Grid Modernization Initiative.

"In Phase II we will be testing the stability of a microgrid using real-time pricing at the distribution level," Aiken said.

The work is based on the fact that every part of the electric grid has different pricing based on the load of each location. If one area has a large load, or electric demand, the electricity price increases. Aiken's company intends to write algorithms, or sets of rules that can be used for problem-solving by a computer, that can trigger microgrids in lower priced locations to send their electricity to the higher priced, higher demand locations to even out the total load on the electric grid.

While initially Introspective is simulating how the price triggers would work and what their impact on the rest of the grid will be, Aiken said that eventually the DOE would like to use them countrywide.


Testing the software

"The idea is to control energy and to lower the peaks in the system," Aiken said. "The first step is to use our software on campuses like Brunswick Landing, but the end result is to roll it out into the national grid."

Introspective is collaborating with other partners while performing the simulations at Brunswick Landing, which buys power from CMP but also has a microgrid. For example, French distribution automation electrical hardware manufacturer Schneider Electric, which has an office in Boston, is providing $50,000 in in-kind engineering support for the project. Other partners offering in-kind support or subcontracting are the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, Village Green Partners (which built a bio-digester generator at Brunswick Landing), distribution automation and sensor manufacturer INCON of Saco, and ReVision Energy of Portland.

Introspective, founded in 2010, makes software technology known as Agoric Grid Control. Agoric comes from "agora," the Greek word for marketplace. The technology will allow for gateways, or smart meters, to be built to trigger electricity to move about the grid when certain price points are hit.

Introspective Systems software is cutting-edge, Aiken said, as it uses fractals, mathematical equations that describe geometric figures, each part of which has the same character as the whole. That means a miniature electric grid in one house could be attached to five houses with similar grids, and that a ring of grids could in turn be attached to larger amounts of houses with grids and so on until all eight national grids and their components tie together. That way, if one house or group of houses is in a blackout, nearby grids could automatically sense the lack of power and send electricity their way.

The next stage in the company's research would be to test it in computers functioning within a microgrid.

Aiken said SBIR grants are difficult to get. Phase 1 required a 45-page proposal and 128-page final report, while the Phase II proposal was 65 pages.