'Thinking machines' will run future power grids

Oct 13, 2011
Dr. Ganesh Kumar Venayagamoorthy in his Real-Time Power and Intelligent Systems Lab at Missouri S&T

(PhysOrg.com) -- Plans to develop the "smart" grid - a system that uses intelligent computer networks to manage electric power - cannot succeed without the creation of new "thinking machines" that can learn and adapt to new situations, from power outages along the grid to fluctuations in the power supply. So says Dr. Ganesh Kumar Venayagamoorthy, a power engineering expert at Missouri University of Science and Technology, in an article published Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011.

These new machines must take on almost human-like intelligent characteristics, such as the ability to make decisions, adapt to unfamiliar situations, learn from changes in their environments and make sense of how all of the electricity flows through the nation's , says Venayagamoorthy, a professor of electrical and at Missouri S&T.

"And those capabilities, in turn, will depend on subsystems that continuously improve their knowledge of grid dynamics, and not just gather data," Venayagamoorthy says in an article published in the latest issue of IEEE's Smart Grid newsletter, published online today.

In his article, Future Grids Will Not Be Controllable Without Thinking Machines, Venayagamoorthy examines the current state of computational intelligence - a field of computing that deals with creating systems that can make decisions "in complex, uncertain and changing environments" - and discusses that field's potential to give rise to what he calls "computational systems thinking machines," or CSTMs.

Venayagamoorthy says these machines will arise from research in two fields of computing: Computational intelligence (CI) and adaptive critic designs (ACDs).

"The research is already well under way" to support the development of thinking machines, he says. "As the smart grid evolves over time, and as we become more dependent on intermittent sources of energy such as wind and solar , we will see that traditional technology will not work."

Computational intelligence is the successor to artificial intelligence "and the way forward in future computing," Venayagamoorthy writes. Adaptive critic designs are based on "a teacher-student framework" in which one part of a computer network (the student) learns from another.

Such a computational systems thinking machine would be capable of managing complex power systems, Venayagamoorthy says. "Several research studies have reported using CI-based technologies to dynamically forecast wind and solar power, monitor voltage stability, and assess real-time stability" of power systems, he writes.

"In combination, CI and ACD technologies can provide a with capabilities for dynamic foresight, sense-making, situational awareness, rapid adaptation, fault-tolerance and robustness," Venayagamoorthy writes. For example, when the demand for is low, a thinking machine should be able to dispatch power from wind farms to storage units that can store the excess power for later use.

Venayagamoorthy is the founder of Missouri S&T's Real-Time Power and Intelligent Systems Laboratory and a principal investigator in the Brain2Grid project, an effort funded through the National Science Foundation's Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation.

Through the Brain2Grid project, Venayagamoorthy is exploring the use living neural networks composed of thousands of brain cells from laboratory rats to control simulated power grids in the lab. From those studies, he hopes to create a "biologically inspired" computer program to manage and control complex power grids in Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere.

Venayagamoorthy is also a senior member of IEEE, the electrical engineering professional society.

Explore further: First of four Fukushima reactors cleared of nuclear fuel

Related Stories

Smart software for self-regulating smart grid

May 24, 2011

Siemens and the utility company Allgauer Uberlandwerk (AUW) in the city of Kempten, Germany, are testing the smart grids of the future. The tests focus on optimized power distribution and the use of a self-organizing ...

Tilting at wind farms

Jan 07, 2009

A way to make wind power smoother and more efficient that exploits the inertia of a wind turbine rotor could help solve the problem of wind speed variation, according to research published in the International Journal of ...

Engineers find new way of utilizing solar farms at night

Aug 17, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- New technology from The University of Western Ontario utilizing photovoltaic (PV) solar farms at night will help in connecting more renewable energy sources like wind turbines to Ontario's grid, increasing ...

Report examines limits of national power grid simulations

May 07, 2009

America's power grid today resembles the country's canal system of the 19th Century. A marvel of engineering for its time, the canal system eventually could not keep pace with the growing demands of transcontinental transportation.

Recommended for you

The state of shale

Dec 19, 2014

University of Pittsburgh researchers have shared their findings from three studies related to shale gas in a recent special issue of the journal Energy Technology, edited by Götz Veser, the Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Che ...

Website shines light on renewable energy resources

Dec 18, 2014

A team from the University of Arizona and eight southwestern electric utility companies have built a pioneering web portal that provides insight into renewable energy sources and how they contribute to the ...

Better software cuts computer energy use

Dec 18, 2014

An EU research project is developing tools to help software engineers create energy-efficient code, which could reduce electricity consumption at data centres by up to 50% and improve battery life in smart ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Isaacsname
5 / 5 (1) Oct 13, 2011
Maybe designing appliances to not draw phantom loads would be a good start ?
knikiy
not rated yet Oct 14, 2011
Also, education in "developed" countries about wasteful practices and conservation.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.