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What The Grid Can Learn From The Internet

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Last Updated: 
April 25, 2022

When will utilities finally unlock the full benefits of distributed energy resources?

In the latest episode of Catalyst, Canary Media's guest host Lara Pierpoint and Camus CEO Astrid Atkinson examine where the grid needs a digital upgrade.

They also discuss concerns about giving utilities access to the technology to communicate with distributed energy resources and control over consumers’ devices. Plus, Astrid and Lara cover FERC Order 2222 and the underappreciated role of electric co-ops in testing out new grid-edge technologies.

A sneak peak (about the scale of "big data")

Astrid: "That's our area of expertise. How do you use a really large number of computers to manage a very large amount of data and do so in a way that's reliable and trustworthy?

Most on-prem software solutions will use two, three, maybe 5 or 10 servers. At places like Google or Facebook, we'll typically be using hundreds of thousands to millions of machines. If you've ever wondered how Google can give you an answer to anything on the internet so quickly, the answer is millions of computers. At its core, that's really the technology leap that made that kind of global-scale computing possible.

This comes up when we talk with utilities because a lot of folks at utilities are struggling with dealing with scale, just from the systems that they already have in place. And that is really hard with on-prem technologies and old-school databases.

Folks at vendor companies will cite metrics about data volume. And this one's really instructive to me. If you think about: how much data do you collect from a million meters every day? If it's every 15 minutes, that's 96 million data points in a day.

That sounds like a lot. But for a system like the one at Google that conducts searches, if you're keeping 10 data points for every interaction that each search has for a computer, that's ~5.6 trillion data points per day. And that's a really low-end estimate.

The size and complexity and sophistication of the data handling systems that you use for understanding what's happening in a system like that, and making sure that it's working the way it's supposed to, are just quite different than the predecessors - which are still state of the art in the utility industry. That's a really big change."

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