Smarter Every Year: How the Triangle’s Driving Innovation in Smart Grid Technology

Wake County Economic Development

It’s that time of year again! A time to reflect on this year’s accomplishments and start planning for next year’s successes.  This year has seen a tremendous amount of activity in one of the Research Triangle’s most important clusters – smart grid.

For the uninitiated, a smart grid is an automated energy network that allows for a two way flow of electricity and or communication with the surplus of energy being delivered back to the grid for other uses.  The grid then monitors all energy or communications flowing through it, from power plants to household devices. This smart technology balances supply and demand in real time; allowing for more reliable and efficient delivery of electricity and communication. Amazing right?

Because in the Triangle we only strive to accomplish major things, it should come as no surprise that Wake County and the Research Triangle continue to be recognized as global leaders in smart grid innovation.   The Research Triangle has become the perfect place for this convergence of innovation, R&D, energy, and IT.  We’re home to the 3rd largest engineering school in the U.S. (NC State University) the second highest concentration of smart grid company headquarters, and array of university and corporate resources, and an unrivaled pool of top tier talent. 

With all of these advantages, we have to be excited about smart grid in the Research Triangle! One of the most exciting things to happen this year was the establishment of the Research Triangle CleanTech Cluster. The purpose of the RTCC is to align regional assets to establish the Research Triangle as the US leader for clean technology industry, research, innovation, education, and economic development.  If you’re still a skeptic, take a look at what’s happened over the last few months and it will be easy to see why we pride ourselves on being a leader in smart grid innovation.

  • According to the NC Sustainable Energy Association NC Clean Energy Industries Census, the Research Triangle continues to be home to the largest concentration of clean energy companies in the state. 
  • Our region’s global leadership in smart grid was reinforced this year as we hosted a delegation of eight French smart grid companies wanting to learn more about our region and resources.
  • Another testament to the region’s position as a recognized leader in this cluster was the numerous smart grid conferences held locally.  IEEE Energy Conversion Congress & Exposition alone had over 1,800 participants!
  • Our social media presence continues to grow as our Twitter handle @TriSmartGrid closed the year with nearly 300 followers.
  • Local company ABB donated $1million to Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh for a smart grid themed exhibit.
  • Wake County Economic Development hosted a series of three Smart Grid Executive Roundtables drawing in nearly 200 top executives, universities researchers and faculty, and partners.
  • Wake County Economic Development developed a new smart grid microsite that includes an interactive map of smart grid companies in the Triangle to better market the Triangle to talent companies interested in recruiting and expanding in the Triangle.

As you can see, it’s been quite a year, and we’re sure this is only just the beginning!  

Author: Michael Haley, Project Manager, Wake County Economic Development

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