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Future Power Grids Will Need Big Data Analysis

For the world's next-generation electrical networks, analysis and standardization will be just as important as power inverters and switches.

Using predictive analytics on their data, IBM writes, utility companies can make a wide range of forecasts, such as:

-- How much excess energy will be available, when to sell it and whether the grid can transmit it.

-- When and where equipment downtime and power failures are most likely to occur.

-- Which customers are most likely to feed energy back to the grid, and under what circumstances.

-- Which customers are most likely to respond to energy conservation and demand reduction incentives.

-- How to manage the commitment of larger, traditional plants in a scenario where peaks from distributed generation are becoming relevant.

Modeling, forecasting and simulation know-how is where much of energy-optimization company Stem's intellectual property resides, company founder and CEO Salim Kahn told InformationWeek recently. Stem's turnkey system, which analyzes large amounts of data, including historical weather information and industry usage patterns, uses predictive algorithms to help companies determine the best times to pull power from the grid.

Big data sets are also a fact of life at 3Tier, which provides renewable energy risk analysis, assessment and forecasting for alternative energy projects in wind, solar and hydro. Among other things, the company looks at 40 years of global climate data in its model.

"The data really piles up," IT director Paul English says in a video for EMC Corp. The company's supercomputer cluster outputs about a terabyte of data per day, which are held in EMC storage systems.

Bringing "Victorian-esque" electrical systems into the computer age is a mission of Glynne Townsend, CEO at Spider9, which manufacturers advanced control systems for energy storage and solar fields.

A field with thousands of solar panels, batteries and inverters -- all constantly changing in response to environmental conditions -- is dramatically more complicated and produces one thousand times more data than a traditional electrical network, Townsend said in a phone interview.

Join Cloud Connect for a free webcast with "Cloudonomics" author Joe Weinman. Cloudonomics is a new way to discuss the benefits of private clouds. Many have focused on the cost reduction possibilities while others have focused on business agility. However, private clouds can play a strategic role, as well. The Cloudonomics webcast happens Dec. 12. (Free registration required.)

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GE is a leader in combining connected devices and advanced analytics in pursuit of practical goals like less downtime, lower operating costs, and higher throughput. At GIO Power & Water, CIO Jim Fowler is part of the team exploring how to apply these techniques to some of the world's essential infrastructure, from power plants to water treatment systems. Join us, and bring your questions, as we talk about what's ahead.