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Intel: We want to bring Moore's Law to the smart grid

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Intel's Lorie Wigle says the company known best for its computer microprocessors is actually a top five player in the smart grid.

NEW YORK -- Intel wants to bring its microprocessing muscle and Moore's Law to the smart grid, an executive said yesterday.

Speaking yesterday at the 9th annual Jefferies Global Clean Technology Conference in New York, the company's general manager for eco-technology, Lorie Wigle, said the company best known for its computer chips is actually a top 5 player in the smart grid.

In a brief presentation, Wigle said smart grid progress required three things: flexible architecture, Internet Protocol standards and consumer empowerment through energy management.

Wigle highlighted the company's Open Energy Initiative, which consists of four pillars: grid infrastructure, home energy management, smart (commercial) buildings and microgrids and communities.

Intel is internally aligning itself to achieve these goals, Wigle said, and is walking the talk by not only consuming green energy -- Wigle said Intel is the No. 1 buyer of green energy, three years running -- but by providing products for businesses and individuals.

That includes products such as wind turbines. Wigle said the average utility wind turbine contains up to 16 microprocessors, used for management and smart grid communication. There's a growing opportunity for Intel in that space, she said.

Wigle also mentioned the 70 NIST standards, and stressed that Intel didn't want to develop all-new processes if it wasn't necessary.

"We do not want to reinvent things that are 90 percent there. We'd prefer to capitalize on prior investment," she said, adding that Intel would like to use the IPv6 protocol "everywhere we can."

Wigle also highlighted grid modeling and simulation, which Intel sees as a major opportunity for its computational power.

"Complete grid simulation is probably an access-scale computing problem," she said, noting that such a computer requires more than 200 times the computing power as high-performance PCs on the market today.

Wigle also discussed the consumer play.

"We believe smart buildings are critical," she said, noting that some 70 percent of energy use derives from them. "We can take our data center knowledge and apply it to communities."

To be engaged, consumers must be able to have a measure of control -- and that doesn't necessarily require a smart meter, she said.

"We don't think you need to wait [for a smart meter]," Wigle said. "And we're not waiting. We're moving forward."

Consumer participation could come from the use of home energy management tools, which may not come in the form of a dedicated panel on the wall. For instance, televisions might be the next logical step, Wigle said, highlighting the company's partnership with Tendril to put energy-management widgets on televisions.

Finally, Wigle highlighted the company's recent plays in the energy space. Intel has invested $125 million to date in smart grid startups, and has participated in policy-making through DESC, the GridWise Alliance, ACEEE, The Climate Group and the USTDA.

"We want to partner with utilities," she said. "Not go around them."

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Andrew Nusca

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Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure