US studies how to quantum-enhance power grid

The US government is joining forces with the private sector to harness quantum computing to improve the national electricity supply.

The Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (RNEL) and Atom Computing have agreed to partner up, allowing the government’s ARIES energy research program to benefit from the tech firm’s atomic array quantum computing systems.

NREL scientist Dr. Rob Hovsapian, says this will mark a vital step toward understanding how quantum computers — touted as potentially vastly improving on conventional computing power for certain specific tasks — can better balance energy loads across an electric grid that’s increasingly burdened by new technologies.

“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’re 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.”

The latter include managing power supply chains, devising more efficient transportation routes, and improving electric grid and telecommunications networks.

NREL and Atom will kickstart their collaboration by exploring how quantum computing can help decision makers responsible for re-routing power supplies between feeder lines that carry electricity to a local or regional areas affected by 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 hailed the project as an exemplar of how private industry and national laboratories can work together in the development of quantum computing technology.

“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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