An open-source software company in Sevastopol is driving a clean energy highway

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Editor’s note: The Press Democrat publishes a series of articles about Sonoma County innovators fighting global warming. We invite readers to submit stories of people locally involved in climate change. Share your ideas by contacting our editor, [email protected]

The 21st century power grid must be a fast highway where electrons and data travel in nanoseconds to where they are needed, unlike today’s hodgepodge of proprietary toll roads that barely talk to each other.

This is the vision that drives Shuli Goodman, executive director of LF Energy, an international organization she founded in 2019 to lay the foundations for this highway.

“The power grid is the largest and most sophisticated machine on the planet. We need to understand this quickly, to ensure a smooth economic and social transition,” Goodman said in a recent conversation at his home in Sevastopol.

Today’s grid runs largely on fossil fuels produced by giant power plants and delivered by utilities to homes and businesses.

To phase out these fossil fuels and their impact on the climate, Goodman said she believes the grid of tomorrow must deliver only the amount of energy needed, only where and when needed, from millions of resources. dispersed carbon-free such as solar and battery farms, rooftop solar power, electric vehicle charging stations, wind turbines, biofuel and hydrogen plants, geothermal fields, hydroelectric and nuclear power plants.

This will require the network to incorporate communications software that can tell the network in real time where electricity is needed, where it can be acquired, where it is not needed, who is paying, who is being paid, and how much. Customers and their devices will need to know minute by minute how much electricity they are using, when they are using it, how much it costs and how to make changes.

Moreover, this high-tech conversation must be reliable, safe and affordable.

“The task ahead of us is enormous,” Goodman said.

A critical part of the solution is open source software, say Goodman and the software developers around the world who help create open source under the LF Energy umbrella.

Open source software is built by developers on a public platform. Any qualified developer can contribute. The final product is freely usable by anyone. With 19 projects underway, LF Energy is an open source leader designed for power markets. Current projects handle tasks such as congestion management, virtual power plants, and load forecasting.

The idea is that a highway of trust can be built faster and cheaper when many build it in public, not in secret proprietary pieces, and speed matters in today’s race against global warming and an exploding grid. in size.

On top of the open source base, innovators can then stack proprietary software that they develop for commercial purposes.

“Our desire isn’t to disrupt capitalism, it’s to create a surge of innovation,” Goodman said. “That’s how the Internet was built. This is how telecommunications has been transformed. By 2022, any given software stack will be 80% open source,” Goodman said.

Goodman, 64, said she founded LF Energy because of an imaginary conversation she had two decades ago with her unborn grandchildren who asked her what she had been up to during the great transition from fossil fuels towards decarbonization.

“It made me travel,” she said.

She started a green MBA, then moved on to a doctorate where she studied how the future emerges in times of collapse. At the beginning of her career, she became an Internet consultant to large companies.

Then one day, while working for the California Public Utilities Commission, she discovered the Linux community governance model and had an epiphany, she said.

The Linux operating system was software developed in the early 1990s by a computer science student at the University of Helsinki in Finland, and openly shared online so other developers could contribute.

Contributions poured in, and today Linux is the foundation of much of global computing, according to the Linux Foundation of San Francisco, which houses and supports Linux developers and their open source projects.

“The Linux operating system is one of the most elegant examples of collective action on the planet,” said Goodman, who suddenly saw how open source could accelerate network transformation.

She convinced the Linux Foundation to host LF Energy, an open source foundation focused on the energy industry.

Today, LF Energy has more than 700 contributors working worldwide on its open source projects. Work on the software is open to everyone, and it’s free. LF Energy also has 67 member organizations that provide inputs, funding, code and software developers. Most developers working on LF Energy projects are employees of member companies, Goodman said.

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