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Raleigh poised to become the the Silicon Valley of smart grid technology

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Friday, October 14, 2011

With Raleigh, North Carolina, striving to attract some of the best talent in the country and large technological investments, the area is hoping to become a hub for future development of the smart grid, according to Bloomberg.

Alex Huang, a full-time electrical engineering professor at North Carolina State University, has dedicated what little free time he has to what he thinks is one of the most pressing issues facing America: the development of smart grid technology.

Huang has teamed up with a group of power electronics experts at the Future Renewable Electric Energy, Delivery and Management (FREEDM) Center to create a "smart transformer," which will allow electricity to be distributed freely throughout the grid, rather than strictly between generators and users.

According to the center's website, FREEDM is funded by the National Science Foundation, and has attracted almost 50 industry-leading partners, including ABB, Siemens and Intel.

The smart transformer that Huang and his team have developed has garnered high praise, making MIT's Technology Review 2011 list of one of the 10 most important emerging technologies.

But the new technology cannot enter into the smart grid alone. In order for it to thrive, it must be accompanied by infrastructure and software that can promote data storage, analysis and security.

SUBNET Solutions Inc. offers a platform that allows utilities to remotely access and manage Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs) in a secure manner that can be integrated with existing IT cybersecurity policies, including NERC Critical Infrastructure Protection requirements.

SUBNET also benefits utilities by offering a fully interoperable system that can speak to a large selection of IEDs, including industry giants ABB and Siemens.

In recent years, billions of dollars have been allocated to aid in smart grid projects with the hope of creating a more reliable grid. SBI Energy, a market research firm, estimates that the global market value of new smart grid-related products grew to $69 billion in 2009, compared to $26 billion in 2005. The value is expected to further grow to $186 billion by 2015, according to Bloomberg.

Many of the new developments in smart grid technology are occurring in and around the Raleigh area, leading Huang to compare the region to California's Silicon Valley, aptly dubbing his facility's area of the East Coast Smart Grid Valley. 

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