Smart electricity software firm taps into lucrative €10bn market

22 Sep 2009

A Clare-based company whose technology remotely monitors overhead power lines and can introduce wind farms to electricity grids faster has secured eight patents and will launch into a €10bn market.

Shannon-based FMC-Tech’s technology remotely monitors overhead power lines, making this information available for the first time.

Using FMC-Tech’s line-rating software also means that wind farms can be introduced onto the electricity grid much sooner – in some cases cutting connection times from years to months.

Ireland’s largest electricity supplier, ESB, plans to use the software to improve its customer service by being able to respond more quickly to faults and anticipating potential disruptions before they happen.

Mike McCormack, managing director of FMC-Tech, said the market his company targets could be worth in excess of €10bn.

“Our company is putting some of the smart into the smart grid,” he explained.

“Our ‘X-NET System’ consists of line-mounted sensors that report conditions on the line to a central source. Local utility personnel can even use an iPhone to get access to data, including line efficiency, fault activity and conductor temperature.

“The market for our patented technology is enormous. When you begin to realise that there are 18 million kilometres of medium-voltage overhead cables in the world we estimate that the market for what we produce could be worth in excess of €10bn.

“The system is Irish-designed, Irish-manufactured and has been produced through funding by the Irish State agencies and investors. None of this would have been possible without the support of our early-stage backers, including the Western Development Commission Investment Fund, Enterprise Equity and Enterprise Ireland.

“With their support we have been developing and perfecting the technology since 2004, and it’s now ready to revolutionise how electricity distribution networks operate. The X-NET System reduces outage duration for customers, makes networks more efficient and supports a greater level of generation from alternative energy supplies, such as wind farms.”

McCormack said ESB has successfully piloted FMC-Tech’s X-NET system in Baltinglass, Wicklow, and is now using the system “live” on an extended trial.

“We have also successfully piloted the system in Sweden and the UK, and having proven the technology, we are now starting to sell it. We have seven employees currently, working in R&D.

“Towards the latter part of this year, we will be hiring a sales and marketing team and targeting the UK, Swedish and Polish markets initially. We believe that we will see our technology on power lines across the globe over the next decade,” McCormack said.

By John Kennedy

Photo: FMC-Tech’s technology remotely monitors overhead power lines.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years