Building on $180 million in joint energy-related research, Tennessee public power utility EPB and Oak Ridge National Laboratory marked 10 years of collaboration on Jan. 26 with the announcement of a new Collaborative for Energy Resilience and Quantum Science.
The new joint research effort will focus on utilizing Chattanooga’s “highly advanced and integrated energy and communications infrastructure to develop technologies and best practices for enhancing the resilience and security of the national power grid while accelerating the commercialization of quantum technologies,” EPB noted.
To date, EPB and ORNL have collaborated on nearly 30 funded projects.
These efforts encompass a wide range of research including the development of advanced energy models to optimize power distribution, the utilization of predictive algorithms to identify likely energy equipment failures so they can be addressed before customers lose power, and the deployment of dynamic microgrids that can be rapidly scaled to meet changing energy needs as power supplied by solar and other renewable energy resources changes unpredictably throughout the day.
“Taken together, these projects reflect efforts to keep energy costs lower for customers while enhancing the reliability and resilience of their energy and communications services,” EPB said.
Quantum cybersecurity technology has been one of the most prominent focus areas for the joint effort.
With Department of Energy funding aimed at securing America’s electric grid against cyberthreats, EPB, ORNL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Qubitekk, Inc., partnered to demonstrate quantum cryptographic technologies across a fiber optic network that EPB established between some of its electric substations.
As a result of the advances yielded through that effort, the team won an R&D 100 Award, which is part of the most prestigious innovation awards program for more than 60 years.
Through the project, EPB also developed the expertise to partner with Qubitekk in launching the EPB Quantum NetworkSM powered by Qubitekk, America’s first commercially available fiber optic network specifically designed and equipped for accelerating the commercialization of quantum technologies.
“Because both the public and private sector are investing billions to unlock the groundbreaking potential of this emerging industry, there are tremendous new opportunities for EPB and ORNL to join forces and advance quantum technology for deployment that transforms energy system resilience, reliability and security for customers,” EPB said.
"Working together, EPB and ORNL have advanced technologies that we will eventually be able to deploy for the immediate benefit of our local customers while providing a model for how other utilities can modernize their technology and operations,” said David Wade, CEO of EPB. “Building on our successful efforts over the last ten years, we have a unique opportunity to operationalize cutting-edge advancements with the goal of enhancing power grid security and reliability both locally and nationally.”
To structure the effort, ORNL and EPB will establish the Collaborative for Energy Resilience and Quantum Science to focus on four strategic goals:
- National leadership in quantum science and technology, including research breakthroughs that enable the distribution of quantum information over long distances, connection of diverse quantum technologies, including quantum computing for novel data analytics and simulation, commercialization in the supply chain, demonstrated improvements in business productivity, and U.S. leadership in the emerging global quantum economy.
- Energy security innovation, including research, development and deployment of novel quantum and digital technologies to create a next-generation grid energy distribution system that demonstrates improved service resilience and reliability and that is affordable and flexible, environmentally sustainable and cyber-secure for customers.
- Workforce development to support the quantum economy in East Tennessee, in partnership with K-12, community colleges, universities and businesses.
- Economic development that moves quantum technology from research to commercialization over 10 years, “positioning East Tennessee to capture investment in the quantum economy and to create new companies in the quantum manufacturing supply chain and business productivity applications development.”
In 2010, EPB completed a 100% fiber optic network accessible to all its customers as the basis for launching America’s first community-wide Gig speed internet.
The utility still operates the world’s fastest community-wide internet service today at speeds up to 25 Gig.
EPB also utilizes Chattanooga’s fiber optic network as the communications backbone for the most advanced and highly automated power distribution system in the United States.
In 2022, EPB established the country’s first commercially available quantum network -- EPB Quantum Network℠ powered by Qubitekk.