Quantum Computers Make Groundbreaking Connections with Power Grid Equipment

Glass Orb with Patterns

Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have successfully developed an open-source interface that allows quantum computers to interface with power grid equipment. This breakthrough collaboration between NREL, RTDS Technologies Inc., and Atom Computing enables researchers to conduct “quantum-in-the-loop” experiments, paving the way for exploring the potential of quantum computing in optimizing electric grid operations.

The complexity of the power system poses significant challenges for traditional supercomputers when it comes to solving optimization problems efficiently. However, quantum computers show promise in handling these complex problems, especially as the grid becomes more intricate with the integration of distributed energy resources. The interface developed by the research team simplifies the translation of optimization problems into quantum variables and facilitates communication between quantum computers and power system simulations.

The integration of quantum computing technology into a dynamic electric grid research platform marks a historic milestone. This advancement opens up new possibilities for grid and hardware validation, enabling researchers to explore the use of quantum algorithms in real-world scenarios. With the ability to handle millions of inputs and outputs, quantum computers offer potential benefits that classical computing-based optimizers cannot match.

The research team conducted a demonstration near Boulder, Colorado, using RTDS real-time grid simulators and Atom Computing’s solution stack based on atomic-array quantum computing technology. The successful debut of their open-source interface showcased the potential of quantum computing in power systems, highlighting its ability to tackle optimization problems that overwhelm classical computers.

The quantum-in-the-loop framework developed by the research team is driven by the understanding that quantum algorithms are well-suited for power system complexity and large optimization problems. As the energy industry witnesses exponential growth in the number of inputs and outputs, classical computers reach their limits while quantum computers offer significant benefits.

The interface developed by NREL and its collaborators represents a significant step forward in creating a real-world emulation environment for exploring the security of next-generation communication protocols and validating quantum algorithms. By combining actual hardware and high-speed communication, the researchers created an emulation environment called ARIES, which enables quantum in-the-loop experiments within highly realistic power systems.

The potential applications of quantum computing in power systems are vast. For instance, quantum computing could play a crucial role in multiobjective optimization scenarios such as efficient evacuation during natural disasters, where decisions depend on factors like the charge of electric vehicles, available charging stations, and evacuation routes.

Quantum computing, with its probabilistic and entangled nature, offers a fundamentally different approach to computation. Quantum algorithms like Grover’s algorithm show the potential to solve search problems more efficiently than classical algorithms. Companies like Atom Computing are making significant strides in testing quantum algorithms on real applications, and power systems are seen as one of the most promising domains for quantum computing.

The successful demonstration of the interface involved NREL’s digital real-time simulators, Atom Computing’s quantum emulator, and Phoenix, its prototype system. The interface, which is compatible with all real-time digital simulation platforms and quantum computing platforms, simplifies the process of setting optimization values, adjusting quantum algorithms, and retrieving qubit measurements. The code for the interface will be publicly released on GitHub, fostering collaboration and further advancements in the field.

While quantum computing is still in its early stages, this interface represents a crucial step in evaluating the practical applications of quantum computing in power systems. The U.S. Department of Energy and NREL have removed a significant barrier by enabling quantum computers to interface with energy systems, providing a platform for future research and advancements in grid problems.

The combination of quantum in-the-loop experiments with ARIES, along with other technologies like commercial renewable energy resources and system controllers, brings unparalleled realism to power system experiments. As ARIES continues to expand, it will have the capacity to control 10,000 energy devices, allowing for comprehensive evaluations of quantum algorithms and advancing power system technologies.

The dawn of quantum computing holds immense potential for revolutionizing various industries, including energy systems. The interface developed by NREL and its partners is a significant step towards harnessing the power of quantum computing in optimizing power grids and addressing the challenges posed by increasing complexity and distributed energy resources.