NREL explores using quantum computing for grid optimization

Today, a groundbreaking partnership was announced in the U.S. energy sector. The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Atom Computing, a leader in quantum computing technology, teamed up to explore how quantum computing can improve the efficiency of electric grid operations.

In parallel to the decarbonization and energy transition process being pushed forward by multiple forces in today's U.S. society, electric grids are increasingly complex as we add diverse new power generation resources such as solar and wind.

 We are reaching the point where electric grids have more inputs and outputs than what our classical computing models can handle.

—said Dr. Rob Hovsapian, a research advisor at NREL.

Many industry experts are searching for new, innovative solutions to address this critical issue so as to guarantee a reliable power grid while ensuring a smooth energy transition process, building the foundation for strong, healthy economic growth.

Quantum Computing

Quantum computing is considered to hold exponentially larger computational power compared to classical computers. It is an emerging field with the potential to revolutionize computing and enable breakthroughs in various scientific, technological and industrial domains.

At the IEEE Power and Energy Society general meeting this week, NREL researchers showcased their use of Atom Computing's atomic array quantum computing technologies in the lab's Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems (ARIES) research platform and power hardware-in-the-loop (PHIL) testing. The integration has resulted in a unique "quantum-in-the-loop" capability that can solve specific optimization problems with a quantum computer, which is deemed a crucial step toward understanding how quantum computers can better balance energy loads across an electric grid.

Currently, optimization problems such as managing supply chains, devising more efficient transportation routes, and improving electric grid and telecommunications networks largely rely on operators' experience for decisions. But actually, they are considered "killer applications" for quantum computing as it excels in these large-scale programs which involve numerous factors and variables.

Rob Hays, CEO of Atom Computing, expressed that public-private collaborations like this are extremely important to drive innovation in solving the most-concerned problems in society, and for advancing quantum computing and scientific research meanwhile.

"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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