The future is bearing down a lot faster these days.
Populations are multiplying, especially in developing regions. Their relative wealth is increasing, and they're consuming and demanding more energy—just like everyone else. However, at the same time, they and we all must run power generation and other processes ever more efficiently to reduce emissions and get closer to the crucial sustainability needed to keep it all going.
These were the primary and daunting challenges laid out by ABB's leaders at the May 18 opening of its Automation and Power World 2010 event at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Initial reports indicate the three-day event will be attended by more than 4,000 visitors from 45 nations, who will take part in more than 400 training workshops and conference sessions and visit more than 100,000 square feet of exhibits.
In one way or another, all of this content is part of ABB's wide-ranging effort to help utilities deliver the energy that users require and help manufacturers provide the products that consumers need. Though generating twice the power to double the people, and doing it with twice the efficiency and half the emissions, might seem insurmountably difficult, the company's projects include everything from the most sophisticated software for power optimization to the most basic and powerful hardware to make the efforts of its many users and their countless customers succeed.
For example, in an early media briefing on Monday, Enrique Santacana, president and CEO of ABB Inc., reported that ABB acquired Atlanta-based Ventyx on May 5. With about 900 employees, Ventyx is the world's largest supplier of energy and utility software. The more than $1-billion purchase "gives ABB the ability to help our customers integrate their applications with smart grids and truly follow the electrons from the point of generation to the point of use and then optimize all the stages along the way," said Santacana.
Not stopping at upper-level optimization, ABB also is working at the essential infrastructure level too. As a result, Santacana reported that ABB is in the process of investing $90 million to build a new U.S-based plant to produce high-voltage AC and DC cables. The company is presently negotiating with two states and plans to announce a location in the next several weeks. The new facility is scheduled to be completed in 2012. The plant will manufacture cables able to handle power levels from 400 kilowatts to 1,500 megawatts.
"We're building this plant to help replace much of the aging power infrastructure in North America, but we're also doing it because there is so much growth expected in high-voltage DC lines (HVDC)," explains Santacana. "A lot more HVDC is needed because renewable power sources need long transmission lines to integrate into existing grids and systems."