Colorado Springs, Colorado -- Power Tagging is a smart grid communications startup out of Boulder, Colorado that uniquely tags energy streams to track power flow. I spoke with Steve Berens, the Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, at the Global New Energy Summit on Tuesday.

Berens sees his firm as helping the smart grid enter the next stage of its growth -- Smart Grid 3.0.

  • Smart Grid 1.0 saw the start of bidirectional communications with an IT-leveraged technology. It was location-agnostic, used batch/bulk data, and had limited applications.
  • Smart Grid 2.0 saw a measure of grid intelligence with grid-specific communications. It's location-aware, works in real time and supports multiple applications.
  • Smart Grid 3.0 will be grid-aware and provide grid command and control. It will be location-specific, work in real time, and support an application ecosystem.

Power Tagging has developed hardware and software to track the flow of energy on the grid. The "Power Tags" placed in grid devices are “Grid-Location Aware,” meaning the devices’ real-time location on the grid can be identified. The technology allows for two-way communication using the bandwidth on the existing electrical grid, eliminating the need for a secondary communication channel (via, say, cellular, fiber optic, wireless, or RF). The technology can be used for demand reduction, grid mapping, grid security, outage notification, and distributed automation. 

Further applications possible with Power Tagging’s solutions are demand side management (DSM), intelligent management of electric vehicles (EVs) for smart roaming and load balancing, and Conservation Voltage Regulation (CVR) continuously optimized in real time.

Another crucial application for power tagging is the improved management of transformers in an aging transformer fleet -- especially with EVs rapidly coming online. The majority of transformers are reaching the end of their 40-year useful life at the same time that EVs at a foreseeable 20 percent penetration would overload the transformer, according to Berens. Power tagging can control the loading of the transformer, managing the load in tandem with utilities and EV power management tools.

The digital “tags” are attached to grid-resident devices and provide data about the power these devices consume, produce, or conduct. The technology uses algorithms to monitor energy flow on the grid in real time.

Power Tagging uses "grid resident communications" where the data "rides" on the the power signal but is distinguished from other PLC techniques by being digital. According to Berens, analog signals in other powerline schemes don't make it back to the substation -- "The signals get destroyed by the grid itself."  Additionally, the digital signal is "difficult to find," according to Berens, providing a stronger measure of grid cyber-security.

"It provides communication from substation to endpoint and back," said Berens.

Power Tagging has demonstration projects across 19 miles of grid with four utilities, including Xcel Energy and Morgan County Rural Electric Association. Power company Dominion, which is piloting the technology, invested in Power Tagging, along with Lockheed Martin in their $5 million round A.

Proximetry could be considered a competitor to this technology.

The firm is in the midst of raising a $20 million to $25 million Round B.