The Silicon Review
We design and manufacture advanced power flow control solutions that dynamically push or pull power on the high voltage electric grid: Gregg Rotenberg, CEO & President.
With technology evolving, the energy and utility industry is facing a time of unprecedented uncertainty. This has created complex challenges and opportunities across the sector, with new solutions and a growing number of industry players.
In light of the above mentioned, we are delighted to present Smart Wires, Inc. – dedicated to providing grid optimization solutions for transmission organizations worldwide. The firm offers power flow control solutions to utilities.
Smart Wires was established in 2011 and is headquartered in California’s San Francisco Bay Area with additional offices in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Interview Excerpt: Gregg Rotenberg, President/CEO
Why was the company set up? How did you select the vertical and decide to be a part of the global platform?
Smart Wires technology was developed by utilities for utilities, led by a consortium of large U.S. utilities at the National Electric Energy Testing Research and Applications Center (NEETRAC). This core group of utilities, which included Southern Company and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), defined the vision for the original modular power flow control system. Today, the technology is rapidly becoming part of the utility tool kit as more and more electric utilities explore new ways to mitigate future uncertainties surrounding load and generation, alleviate congestion, improve network utilization and maintain reliable electric service.
What learnings helped you to set this company up?
The need for Smart Wires breakthrough technology could not be greater. Electric grids across the world are facing a power congestion crisis, costing everyday consumers billions of dollars in higher energy costs each year. Congestion on the electric grid is the result of physical limitations of specific grid components. As a result, it prohibits the amount of power that can flow over to portions of the transmission network without jeopardizing system reliability. Bottlenecks on the system prevent lower cost, cleaner power from reaching consumers. System limitations for transporting clean power mean that a higher polluting generation source may be used instead.
Tell us about your first product that was launched.
In 2012, TVA installed 100 Power Line Guardian devices. This installation was the first deployment of Smart Wires’ innovative power flow control solutions and a significant step for TVA as they sought to develop their future grid. TVA’s fleet of PowerLine Guardians has been operating reliably for the past five-and-a-half years.
What do you feel is the reason behind your product’s popularity?
Today’s electric grid has become extremely difficult to manage, due to a rapidly changing power generation mix, evolving electricity consumption patterns and challenges associated with permitting and building new infrastructure. Utilities are demanding more economic, flexible solutions. Industry experts have drawn attention to the fact that global power grids were built without “valves” to control the flow of power. Visionary utilities have recognized it is time for a new paradigm for designing and managing their grids.
Our solutions provide the first highly intelligent “valve” for transmission grids. We design and manufacture advanced power flow control solutions that dynamically increase or decrease line reactance. With these tools, utilities can push power away from congested lines on to underutilized paths and unlock the excess capacity that exists on their networks today. These solutions install quickly and can be easily relocated, providing the flexibility needed in today’s uncertain landscape. With Smart Wires, utilities can actively dispatch transmission lines, just like generation or load, and create a dynamic grid.
Al Hodnik, Chief Chairman, CEO and President of ALLETE
“With Smart Wires, we are able to optimize the use of our existing infrastructure, enabling us to improve the overall utilization of our assets and to save our customers money by deferring the need for costly
transmission upgrades. These innovative solutions fit seamlessly into our Energy Forward strategy to create a smarter, stronger, cleaner energy future while efficiently delivering the safe and reliable power our customers rely upon.”
Fintan Slye, Director of National Grid System Operator (and former EirGrid CEO)
“Using new technologies that drive long-term value for customers is vital to the energy system of the future. Smart Wires technologies make better use of spare capacity on our network.”
Gerard Reiter, Executive Manager, Network Planning & Operations of TransGrid
“We are always interested in finding new ways to maximize thWe use of the New South Wales transmission network, and we’re looking forward to working with Smart Wires.”
What are the most important assets to your organization? Why?
Smart Wires’ most important assets combine to form a perfect storm.
We invest three times more than the industry norm in finding top talent. As a result, we are consistently securing incredible additions to our team.
Our ego-less culture is highly prescriptive, guiding us on how to make decisions and what traits we value in each team member. This includes an obsession with always pursuing the best solution for our customers, even when it slows our growth in the short term.
Technology & IP
Compared with other options available to utilities, our technology is simply the superior choice. Our very aggressive IP strategy protects the revolutionary advances developed by our R&D team.
How well do your employees know their role in contributing to the company’s success?
Every member of the Smart Wires team has a crucial role to perform. Smart Wires has succeeded in building a team full of incredible contributors who also recognize the superiority of a team over an individual.
Smart Wires’ goal is to place superstars in every role so that we rely and trust each other to do our jobs brilliantly. This strategy ensures a fun, exciting workplace and nearly guarantees continued commercial success.
Leadership Spotlight: Gregg Rotenberg, Smart Wires CEO & President
As Smart Wires’ highest ranking executive, Gregg leads the company’s global commercial and R&D groups.
Prior to Smart Wires, Gregg was the General Manager of the Renewable Power Group at Chevron Energy Solutions (CES) and managed CES’ Strategic Alliances Group. The Strategic Alliances Group reviewed over 1,000 companies in a five year period to identify truly game-changing energy technologies. In this period, only three technologies were designated as true game changers. One of those technologies was Smart Wires. Gregg was also a principal at Keystone Strategy, a strategy consulting firm that was launched by three Harvard Business School professors.
Gregg holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics with a concentration in finance and accounting from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated magna cum laude, and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, where he graduated first in his class.