04 June 2009

This is the Future: the Grid Meets the Grid

Wow, this is cool:

At first glance it’s hard to see how the open-source software framework Hadoop, which was developed for analyzing large data sets generated by web sites, would be useful for the power grid — open-source tools and utilities don’t often mix. But that was before the smart grid and its IT tools started to squeeze their way into the energy industry. Hadoop is in fact now being used by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) to aggregate and process data about the health of the power grid, according to this blog post from Cloudera, a startup that’s commercializing Hadoop.

The TVA is collecting data about the reliability of electricity on the power grid using phasor measurement unit (PMU) devices. NERC has designated the TVA system as the national repository of such electrical data; it subsequently aggregates info from more than 100 PMU devices, including voltage, current, frequency and location, using GPS, several thousand times a second. Talk about information overload.

But TVA says Hadoop is a low-cost way to manage this massive amount of data so that it can be accessed all the time. Why? Because Hadoop has been designed to run on a lot of cheap commodity computers and uses two distributed features that make the system more reliable and easier to use to run processes on large sets of data.

What's interesting about this - aside from seeing yet more open source deployed in novel ways - is that it presages a day when the physical grid of electicity and its users are plugged into the digital grid, to allow massive real-time analysis of vast swathes of the modern world, and equally real-time control of it across the grid. Let's hope they get the security sorted out before then...

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