July 20, 2023 — Boulder, C0 – Atom Computing and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) today announced a collaboration to explore how quantum computing can help optimize electric grid operations.
During this week’s IEEE Power and Energy Society general meeting, NREL researchers demonstrated how they incorporated Atom Computing’s atomic array quantum computing technologies into the lab’s Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems (ARIES) research platform and its hardware-in-the-loop testing to create a first-of-a-kind “quantum-in-the-loop” capability that can run certain types of optimization problems on a quantum computer.
Dr. Rob Hovsapian, a research advisor at NREL, called the new capability an important step toward understanding how quantum computers can better balance energy loads across an electric grid.
“Electric grids are increasingly complex as we add new power generation resources such as wind and solar, electric vehicle charging, sensors and other devices,” he said. “We are reaching the point where electric grids have more inputs and outputs than what our classical computing models can handle. By incorporating quantum computing into our testing platform, we can begin exploring how this technology could help solve certain problems.”
Optimization problems such as managing supply chains, devising more efficient transportation routes, and improving electric grid and telecommunications networks are considered “killer applications” for quantum computing. These are large-scale problems with numerous factors and variables involved, which makes them well suited for quantum computers and the way in which they run calculations.
Keeping power flowing across an electric grid is a good example of an optimization problem. Power plants, wind turbines, and solar farms must generate enough electricity to meet demand, which can fluctuate depending on the time of day and weather conditions. This electricity is then routed across miles and miles of transmission lines and delivered to homes, businesses, hospitals, and other facilities in real time.
Initially, NREL and Atom Computing are exploring how quantum computing can improve decision making on the re-routing of power between feeder lines that carry electricity from a substation to a local or regional service area in the event of switch or line downtime.
“Right now, operators primarily rely on their own experience to make this decision,” Hovsapian said. “This works but it doesn’t necessarily result in an optimal solution. We are evaluating how a quantum computer can provide better data to make these decisions.”
Atom Computing CEO Rob Hays called the project an important example of how private industry and national laboratories can collaborate on quantum computing technology and valuable use case development.
“Collaborations like this are extremely important for advancing quantum computing and scientific research,” Hays said. “NREL is a global leader in renewable energy and electric grids. We are proud to partner with them to advance their research.”
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About Atom Computing
Atom Computing is building scalable quantum computers with atomic arrays of optically trapped neutral atoms. We collaborate with researchers, organizations, governments, and companies to help develop quantum-enabled tools and solutions; and support the growing global ecosystem. Learn more at atom-computing.com, and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.