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Transactive Control — the New Grid Signals

Everyone knows that good communication can help prevent and solve a lot of problems. That's also true for the power system, all the way from a turbine on a dam to your thermostat. The better the communication, the better the grid's reliability and the higher the savings. See how our new grid signal gets us talking here.

Our new grid signals enable seamless communication between electricity generation, your utility, and end users like you. Dubbed "transactive control" by researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the signals communicate the cost of delivering energy to a specific device in a specific location and, with your consent, allows that device (think water heater, electric furnace, electric vehicle or clothes dryer) to make its own decision on when to use electricity. The signal gives us choices; we can save by using electricity when it is cheapest, or we can use it during peak times, which strains the grid.

In a very simplified example, the signals say to your electric car, "Hey, electricity will cost less tonight. Would you like some?" Your car says: "Yes, I'll charge tonight." This allows the system to self-adjust and help the region to optimize the use of resources, such as renewable energy, while maintaining power quality and reliability at reasonable costs. Apart from encouraging electricity use when it's cheapest, the signals also communicate what different resources are available; allowing the best use of them, by, for example, using wind over coal.

The project's grid signals could be applied to the entire region, and even to other parts of the nation. If it meets its promise, we will have created the potential for greatly improving how we manage our 21st century electrical system to meet our goals for renewable power, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and low-cost energy to power the region.

To find out more about transactive control, read our Winter 2011 Newsletter.