Live Power Adds Smith Mountain Pumped Hydro to Its Coverage of PJM

In May 2019, Live Power added Smith Mountain, a key pumped storage hydro facility in PJM, to our real-time monitoring network.

Market Significance

Smith Mountain like it’s sister to the north, Bath County, acts like a giant battery capable of delivering 588 MW to be called in times of peak demand and high prices.  Normal operations are daily cycles of pumping off-peak and generation during peak. Additionally, because of its location in PJM South it has an impact on tie lines moving imports  from the Southeast. As the figure shows, it is very price responsive.

Note the flood control generation on June 9-10.

Note the flood control generation on June 9-10.

How Live Power Monitors Facilities

By using aerial imagery and reference datasets from PJM, FERC and transmission owners we plan out where we need sensors. At Smith Mountain, we selected five(5) 138kV lines for monitoring. Once the planning was completed, we dispatched 2 technicians to knock on doors and deploy sensors. It took us 4 different trips to the area to complete this facility.

After placement of the sensors, our technician conducts a detailed field site survey measuring the position of transmission conductors with respect to the position of our sensor. This provides the input for a precise modeling of the magnetic field geometry.

Peer Review

After we have sensors in place the field surveys completed, we begin the process of fine tuning our estimate of total generation or load for pumping. A team of analysts will critique each plant before releasing it to customers. This process includes these steps:

  1. The geometric model of the sensor position to the conductors is used as input to calculate current (power) from the magnetic field measurements. This is independent of any external control or reference data.

  2. We identify periods that appear to be zero output and zero load. This provides a training period to model for no activity.

  3. Then we scale the maximum generation and maximum pumping to the plant capacity during a period that makes economic sense, i.e., a high price period for maximum generation output.

  4. The result over a period of a week or two is examined for total efficiency of energy for pumping versus generation.

  5. The final review is to discern clear on and off of each generating unit.

Over time we will continue to monitor these and adjust as necessary.

Smith Mountain in Southern Virginia

Smith Mountain in Southern Virginia

Leesville Operations

Because Live Power measures every 1 min, the operations at the Leesville Dam of the 2 x 20 MW turbines in the lower reservoir below Smith Mountain are very clear as roughly 20 generation peaks each hour which appear in the time series chart each hour.

Leesville operations are clearly shown as the hourly fluctuations.

Leesville operations are clearly shown as the hourly fluctuations.

Releases for flood control June 8-10th

Smith Mountain showed some unusual generation over the last weekend with no pumping cycles. We believe the reservoir was drawn down as a precaution to manage flood waters from upstream precipitation.  This was confirmed by a NWS flood warning alert. We are excited to be able to spot this type of event and look to improve the timeliness and context this sort of hydro event in the future.

Flood warnings caused Smith Mountain to generate more than normal to lower the reservoir for flood control.

Flood warnings caused Smith Mountain to generate more than normal to lower the reservoir for flood control.

Press Release: Live Power Closes Financing to Expand Its Sensor Network on the Power Grid into Midwest ISO

Live Power raised $2m in a growth series to continue expanding its proprietary sensor network of the power grid. The round was led by LPI Holdings and Yes Energy including both new and existing investors. LPI Holdings represents a group of investors backing the founder, Pal Even Gaarder.

Live Power operates a proprietary sensor network monitoring the U.S. power grid to support trading of wholesale electric power. The company will use these funds to complete its sensor network buildout in the MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator) power market as well as expand its team of engineers, analysts and field technicians.

Until recently market participants had only one choice for real-time grid information. Live Power brings a new generation of technology, delivering data on power plant generation and transmission constraints at 1 minute intervals.

”We are thrilled to continue our rollout beyond PJM and ERCOT with these funds to meet our growing customer expectations,” said Townsend, Live Power's CEO.

About Live Power: 
Live Power headquartered in Boulder, Colorado currently operates a network of 100s of sensors that spans 18 states and 2 regional markets (PJM and ERCOT). The data is sold to utilities, generators and financial institutions that buy and sell electric power in the wholesale market. These customers use the data to manage their positions in this very volatile commodity market.

Live Power was founded by Pal Even Gaarder, a Norwegian physicist, who came to the U.S. in 2014 after building a similar grid sensing network in Scandinavia. The current CEO, Bill Townsend, has over 20 years of experience in building commodity trading data and applications.

Live Power Challenges Validity of Genscape Patents at US Patent and Trademark Office

November 9, 2018, Boulder, CO - Last Friday Live Power initiated the process of challenging two of Genscape’s patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”).  Live Power commenced proceedings asking the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to re-examine Genscape’s patents in view of three earlier patents which show that the novelties claimed by Genscape’s patents, including the use and positioning of monitors to process electric and magnetic fields from overhead transmission lines to generate magnitude and relative phase, were well known and obvious at the time Genscape filed its patent applications.

Last year, Genscape filed a lawsuit against Live Power alleging patent infringement.  Live Power’s petitions before the USPTO seek to invalidate those same patents. “Given the aggressive, and we believe unfounded, legal action by Genscape, the petitions were appropriate to protect our business,” said Live Power CEO, Bill Townsend.

Live Power’s sister company Ably AS has provided power grid monitoring data to Nord Pool market participants since 2008 under its own family of patents in Europe.  Now, due to the success of Live Power in the U.S., Genscape has turned to a pattern of unsupported litigation in an effort to thwart competition.

After 10 months of litigation, and upon being confronted with Live Power's statements of why there is no patent infringement, Genscape dropped the lawsuit and dismissed its claims instead of actually trying to prove them.  Two months later, Genscape filed a second lawsuit against Live Power and its CEO alleging trade secret theft, breach of confidentiality and other similar counts. Live Power and Townsend refute the claims in Genscape’s second lawsuit as baseless and point out that Genscape’s new complaint, like its first complaint, is filled with errors and misrepresentations.

Live Power will continue to build out its next generation power grid monitoring network despite Genscape’s legal tactics.  At present, Live Power is providing data streams updated every 60 seconds on over 170 GW of generation capacity in PJM and ERCOT and hundreds of individual transmission lines.  “We are focused on building a better product and gaining market share by providing better, faster data on power markets.” said Townsend.

Genscape Files Second Lawsuit in Transparent Attempt to Combat Live Power’s Success

October 9, 2018, Boulder, CO - Last week Genscape filed a second lawsuit against Live Power in an apparent effort to slow Live Power’s success in providing high quality power data to traders in the PJM and ERCOT power markets.  Instead of focusing on marketplace competition, Genscape, a Daily Mail owned company, seems to have chosen a strategy of serial litigation.

Genscape filed its first lawsuit against Live Power one year ago, alleging patent infringement and tortious interference.  After 10 months of litigation, and upon being confronted with Live Power's statements of why there is no patent infringement, Genscape dropped the lawsuit and dismissed its claims instead of actually trying to prove them.

Genscape’s second lawsuit, filed in federal court against Live Power and its CEO Bill Townsend, alleges trade secret theft, breach of confidentiality and other similar counts.  Live Power and Townsend refute the claims in Genscape’s second lawsuit as baseless and point out that Genscape’s new complaint, like its first complaint, is filled with errors and misrepresentations.

The truth is that Live Power’s technology and methods have been evolving since 2008 when its founder Pal Even Gaarder began deploying sensors in Nord Pool based on his research and patented process.  The entry of this technology from Europe into the North American power markets is the first real competitive challenge to Genscape’s market dominance in 17 years.

Live Power and Townsend intend to defend themselves against Genscape’s second round of allegations and are confident that they will prevail in court.  More importantly, however, the lawsuit will not distract Live Power from its primary focus—serving the needs of Live Power’s customers. Live Power will continue to offer great support, to innovate, and to provide a better, faster, and more comprehensive product to the power market.  

Demanding a Higher Bar for Accuracy

Over the last few months, we have had some breakthroughs on improving the accuracy of our power plant monitoring.  This is particularly true for for plants with many transmission lines connected in dense rights of way. 

In these examples, you can see three market moving plants with a before and after picture of our generation estimates.  Until now market participants had struggled with the available information on these plants and often were forced to make assumptions on their output levels or whether they were online at all.

Through a combination of our technology, persistence and enough historical observations, we have been able to dramatically improve our generation estimate on these plants. To all of our customers along this journey, we thank you for your constant reminders of how important it is to get this right. 

Our Process

The process of where to deploy sensors and how to combine the signals into an estimate of near real-time generation is a patented proprietary process. However, we like to share some basic steps and principles used to help our customers understand the basis of the data.

Our process includes:

  1. Deploying sensors along as many high voltage lines connected to the plant for which we can find a landowner.
  2. Screening of initial sensor data. Do we have noisy data? Are there too many lines interfering with each other?
  3. Examining data for historical operating patterns based on historical data from CEMS, NRC, ERCOT, EIA, EQR, and wind speed.  Do we clearly see  startups/shutdowns and capacity blocks.
  4. Choose training and validation periods and create calibration models for each facility. 
  5. Peer review process - every released or re-calibrated plant goes through a peer review that often results in reworking the analysis or additional field work. We may want to add more sensors or move one to a different location. If the generation estimate looks good we will release a new plant as REVIEW status.
  6. Wait and observe how the values change over time and during line outage events. We assess if the calibration is stable or unstable during line outages and adjust to these different grid states.
  7. Review generation estimate against new reference data and recalibrate if necessary.  Again we choose multiple training and validation periods and test the model again. 
  8. Revise monitoring plan. What can we still work on to make this better?  Conduct a field survey and begin to dis-aggregate multiple circuits?


We are always willing to share our strengths and weaknesses with our customers.  In some cases, we may have a lot of noise at zero output. Or in other cases we may be very confident of the capacity blocks or individual generating unit output.  

Customer Notes are provided in our interface to communicate all the relevant caveats around the data. Additionally, we post if something is going on like a line outage or even if our sensor is not working properly.

You can choose how to use our data with as complete an understanding as you need to assess the benefits or risks.

Restate Historical Data

As our final step we will restate history and publish that revised history to our customers. This is to provide the best and most accurate data series for analytical uses.  In most cases, this is just the past few months of recent history.  

In the event it is needed, we keep all the historical versions of each data record and can produce them upon request.

So, check it out and tell us if we are setting the bar higher for quality and accuracy.

Monitoring Local Loads in ERCOT

In the course of deploying our magnetic field sensors to monitor two power plants in South Texas, we figured out that we were also monitoring local loads.  This opens the door to a greater level of resolution on real-time load data than currently available.

We deployed sensors on many of the 138 kV lines connected to the Hidalgo substation and compared them with 60 day delayed ERCOT state estimator data. We discovered two things. 

First our measurement was highly accurate prior to even using any of the state estimator data to improve it. Second, all of the 138 kV lines had identical load shapes. We concluded that they are all serving the same local loads in the area. 

Our next question was how different is this load shape from the zonal load data already provided from ERCOT. Because the zones are so large we hoped that a more local breakdown of load would be meaningful and provide some insight into LMP spreads. The load shape shows that this area has a diurnal load shape that is offsetting the zonal load during some peak hours.

We are now discussing how we use this load monitoring capability to improve your virtual, bal-day or FTR trading.  If you have ideas then get in touch us at


Bath County Gets Live Power Upgrade

Bath County is the largest pumped storage hydro plant in North America with nearly 3 GW of generating capacity. As a giant battery in the PJM market, its sudden generation can act as dampener on real-time prices. This makes it a closely watched fundamental for all PJM cash traders.

At LIVE POWER, it is the most watched piece of data that we produce every 60 seconds. Recently, we had a sensor failure due to a problem with our cellular reception.  We learned very quickly how important this data set was too our customers. So, we doubled our coverage of this facility.

To address reliability, we placed double the amount of sensors to have 100% redundancy at each site. Then we also added a second cellular carrier at each site to have 100% redundancy on data communications. 

To address accuracy, we conducted site surveys at each sensor location and created a 3D model of the geometry between the conductors and our sensors. This allows us to create a very accurate model of the magnetic field and our sensor. We can now calibrate each line to this model as well. This provides a 3 method of validation of our estimates. It also makes our estimates more stable in the event that one line goes on outage.