The non-profit California ISO manages the flow of electricity across the high-voltage, long-distance power lines that make up 80 percent of California’s (and a small part of Nevada’s) power grid. The power comes from electric utilities, such as Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric.
But increasingly, power also comes onto the grid from renewable resources such as wind and solar. The California legislature has mandated that by 2020, 30 percent of electricity in the state must come from renewables. Often this distributed generation comes from single-family homes that install solar panels.
Dispersive Technologies’ network virtualization software provides an overlay over different types of communication connections to manage the energy.
“Effectively, we’re a distributed switch across the Internet,” says Dispersive’s CEO Robert Twitchell. “Cal-ISO uses MPLS plus a VPN to control the grid. We are now a second company to be approved for the grid.”
Cal-ISO’s MPLS provider is AT&T. But with Dispersive’s SDN technology, the thousands of people and companies wanting to connect their renewable energy to the grid will be able to transmit energy information over any type of connection from any provider.
These renewable energy generators must deploy a remote terminal unit (RTU) loaded with Dispersive’s software at each of their locations. Then the data can run over any type of connection such as MPLS, public broadband, wireless, or satellite to communicate with Dispersive’s software on the Cal-ISO side.
Dispersive’s technology sounds similar to software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN), and Twitchell even made that comparison himself. But he says Dispersive is unique in terms of its security, which he seems especially proud of.
Until now, the six-year-old company has primarily worked for government and military customers that have demanded a high grade of security.
In addition to encryption, Dispersive uses what it calls “deflectors” to break traffic up. “We spread the data out,” says Twitchell. “We put up a wave point or a deflect to break the traffic up, and we can actually break traffic up to 250 times. It’s variable and unpredictable. It forces a hacker to have to go and collect all that data.”
The Atlanta-based company has 24 granted patents on its technology. It recently closed a series B round, bringing its total funding to about $30 million.