Digitizing the power grid
Heimdall Power ‘bowling ball’ strikes at transmission of appropriate needed electricity
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American
It looks like a bowling ball, weighs about 10 pounds, and packs power to control transmission of the necessary amount of electricity, while also repairing damage to electrical wires.
Heimdall Power’s Neuron™ sphere is attached to a utility’s electrical wires and through Digital Line Rating software and hardware sends information to the utility to help determine how much electricity needs to be transmitted. They are digitizing the power grid. Now, Heimsdall is bringing the Neuron to the United States via the Business Accelerator Resource Network (BARN), a programming initiative of Norway House in Minneapolis.
“The industry breaks down utility services into three or four parts,” said Robert Gordon Mork, Heimdall Power vice president of international regulatory affairs from Stavanger though Zoom. “One is the high voltage transmission grid. The second part, which is the biggest, the transmission lines you see along the highway. There’s various switches and stuff that connects them together. Then there’s the distribution grid, which is lower voltage. It goes to your house. Then there is generation, which provides electricity that flows across.
“What our product is most useful for with the grid is the transmission part of that equation, although the line between what is transmission and distribution is shades of gray, from low voltage to trans distribution in your neighborhood, all the way up to high voltage stuff that you see across the world.
“The grid goes everywhere and is really a monopoly. When I say the grid, there’s different expertise definitions and different grids. Some people use the word network as opposed to grid, but when I’m talking about the grid, I’m talking about the electric wires. There are electric wires through the countryside, in the city that are buried underground, in most rural, residential, and business neighborhoods.”
It takes five minutes to attach the Neuron to the wire. A screw at the top is unscrewed and then clipped to the wire. Connect to the cellular network and start saving. The neuron has sensors that control the transmission. With the advent of additional sources of electricity, it’s creating a situation new vs. old, with old infrastructure aging. The neuron can also account for environmental factors.
“One of the challenges in the electric industry is if there’s a lot of change in terms of where electricity comes from,” said Mork. “There are a lot of older generation facilities, which are retiring, and the cost of new generations from wind and solar has come down a lot. There’s a question of how do you change the grid in order to meet the demands of these new kinds of generation that are being built? It takes a long time to build new transmission models.
“What our product does is it allows you to use the transmission grid more efficiently. In the olden days, it was less expensive to build more than you needed than it was to try to have exactly the right amount. So, in the olden days, they put up new transmission wires and built them bigger than they needed to be.
“The amount of energy you can put through a transmission line basically depends on temperature. As you put more electricity through, it warms up. As long as it doesn’t get too hot, you can keep putting more electricity through. If the wire gets too hot, it melts, sags, touches trees, starts fires, or breaks. What they did in the olden days is they would set a super conservative number about how much electricity could be put through the wire, add a status line rating, and you would just use that. Now, there are increasing demands on that transmission system. In order to build these new forms of generation, we need to be able to put more energy through the wires.
“What these sensors allow us to do is look at how hot the wires are actually getting and whether there’s too much energy flowing through the wire so that we can run the grid in a smarter way. It tells if there’s vibration going on, and with those sensors, you can tell if it’s getting too hot and whether there’s still capacity on the network. The biggest problem with the old rating system is that it doesn’t take into account environmental factors around the wire.”
Among the features is the ability to predict snow and ice accumulation, but then it was tested in Norwegian winters. The cloud-based software is called Heimdall Brain™ that can monitor location, capacity, clearance, condition of the wires, temperature, sag, vibration, and resolve issues remotely. The Neuron is installed or about to be installed in nine European countries, while 100 are running. The clients are utilities and the challenges in America are different regulations from city to city and state to state. Heimdall is ready.
“The U.S. market is very large, it’s time zones are different so it’s difficult to manage that,” said Mork. “It takes a long time to go back and forth. Customer service is very important to us.
“Transmission is regulated at the federal level but how utilities recover their investments is regulated at the state level. States also regulate what kinds of generation resources are developed by their utilities and each state often has its own approach to energy policies. Cities too. We have to understand how different states are interested in different things and be responsive to that. There’s a lot of work involved in trying to figure that out. It’s something that we are prepared to address. It’s certainly part of the challenge of entering into this market.”
Norway House’s BARN program has been helpful. “It’s been great to have advisers from BARN, who are familiar with what Norwegian companies need to think through if they come into the U.S. markets in terms of legal requirements, regulatory issues, how to set up a U.S. operation,” said Mork. “They put us in touch with some providers of those kinds of services who we expect to use in the near future. They also put us in touch with a program, run out of Embry-Riddle University in Prescott, Ariz., where business students work with companies like ours to help them think through issues as they enter markets. We’ve just had a kickoff meeting with those four students. Norwegian companies like to be good citizens of their communities, to look for opportunities to collaborate. Working with young people like this on a digital technology, is something we’re excited about.”
All photos courtesy of Heimdall Power
This article originally appeared in the March 4, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.