Smart grid technology has been implemented in many places, but Florida’s new deployment is the first full-scale system.
By Kevin Bullis
Silver Spring Networks
Why: Computer intelligence in the electric grid will make energy distribution more efficient.
Key innovation: Developed hardware and software that standardize the way disparate parts of the grid communicate.
The company builds secure, adaptable network infrastructure that helps utilities and their customers manage their energy use more efficiently. Silver Spring Networks' software allows utilities to automatically manage their distribution of electricity by quickly responding to spikes and lulls in electricity generation and demand, as well as failures in the grid. The company also builds its communication chips into smart electric and gas meters that relay data to a centralized software system. Consumers can access the data to monitor their own energy use through a Web portal that Silver Spring maintains.
Analysts are predicting that smart-grid investments will top $15 billion worldwide by 2015, with advanced metering and networking technology accounting for a third of that total.
Utilities are using Silver Spring's networking technology to meet increasing demand for electricity by doing more with the power plants they have rather than building new ones. Thanks to the company’s smart metering platform, for instance, Oklahoma Gas and Electric is managing demand so much better that it has been able to shelve plans for two new power plants, which would have cost up to $320 million to build.
Challenges and Next Steps:
The company faces increasing competition from larger companies like GE, which already has a huge presence in the energy sector, and Cisco, which is a leading vendor of networking hardware. But it believes that there is room for large and small companies to work together in the smart-grid market. It already does business with GE.