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Protecting the Power Grid: Escondido’s Elintrix is Breaking Scientific Ground

Above is substation equipment from which power lines provide electricity to communities.
This facility is located in Anza, Calif. If there is a power disruption, Elintrix’s technology
can quickly identify the location so repair crews can be sent to the scene. 

Drawn to Escondido by its business-friendly climate, Elintrix, a cutting-edge research firm, is breaking scientific ground with its efforts to protect the U.S. power grid. 

Founded in 2000, Elintrix moved to Escondido three years ago from San Diego. The move represented an opportunity for the company to work with a highly supportive local government and to partner with other North County firms. 

“There are a lot of companies here who are useful to our needs,” Chief Technical Officer Drew Barnett says. “The city has been particularly supportive. We received a letter of support for one of our grants.”

Drew Barnett, above, is the chief technical officer of Elintrix. 

The Department of Energy grant sought to fund Elintrix experiments on the Anza Electric Cooperative (AEC) power grid. Sent in April of 2018, the letter offered to help increase Elintrix’s opportunities to access electric grids and develop its technology. In addition to providing general business assistance, the city offered to make introductions to organizations and businesses that could support the project’s development and commercialization, such as Sempra Energy. 

In addition to appreciating the City of Escondido’s support, Barnett says he likes the North County lifestyle.

“It’s a better living environment here,” Barnett explains. “There is more elbow room. People are friendlier.”

Although it frequently collaborates with others, Elintrix has a permanent staff that consists of Barnett, Chief Executive Officer Sandra Hargis, and Senior Scientific Engineer Joseph Reed, Ph.D. The company is located on Andreasen Drive.

The Science of Signals

While Elintrix works in a variety of fields, its chief focus is pioneering efforts to improve the robustness, resiliency, and security of power grids through rapid detection, localization, and classification of outages. It does this by analyzing sensor signals. 

Elintrix has developed ways to determine the location of power interruptions by analyzing sensor signals.
In this laboratory experiment, Senior Scientific Engineer Joseph Reed, Ph.D., confirms that Elintrix can
quickly determine which parts of the power grid infrastructure are involved in power failures.
This allows utilities to send repair crews to the exact location of power disruptions. 

“Our projects typically involve using communication links to facilitate the transfer of sensor data and mathematically-based algorithms to extract actionable information,” Barnett says. “The power grid work is enabled by the company’s patented technology for continuously determining the specific elements of the grid infrastructure supplying a given location on the power grid, despite dynamic changes in the power-distribution map.”

The technology can enable utilities to quickly identify the cause of disruptions, such as downed power lines. Left unchecked, disruptions can interrupt electrical service, cause fires, and pose hazards to the public. Instead of spending time searching for the source of problems, utilities can use Elintrix technology to quickly pinpoint locations and make repairs. 

“One group of people who would be interested in this technology are manufacturers of substation relay protection equipment,” he says. “It gives them a way of marketing increased capabilities to utilities.”

The Cutting Edge

Elintrix’s patented methodology “is our crown jewel,” Barnett adds. 

“We are performing on-grid research and testing with the aid of our utility-collaborator, Anza Electric Cooperative, and have the support of a major manufacturer of relay protection equipment for power grid applications. This work we are doing is really cutting edge. It is front and center in the research and development community, relative to gaining awareness of conditions on the power grid.”

Elintrix’s work with sensors has taken it into a variety of fields.  Notable projects include:

  • A body-worn mobile network for monitoring the health of U.S. Army personnel undergoing physiologically demanding training in harsh environments.
  • Biology-inspired chemical detector arrays that incorporate signal processing and machine-learning to identify chemical gases in turbulent environments.
  • Sensing and analytics for smart medical devices.
  • Interrogation and signal-analysis technology for the smart-grid, including fault detection/localization/classification and cybersecurity message authentication.

Because its projects involve a high percentage of research, Elintrix is continually developing new skills and innovations. The company has worked with government agencies, corporations in the defense and energy sectors, and medical device companies. It also has collaborated with major universities and formed multidisciplinary teams to work in specialized areas.

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