Beacon Power's Smart Grid Patent

Beacon Power reported last week that its patent application directed to smart grid technology has been allowed.  The patent will issue on Tuesday as U.S. Patent No. 7,834,479, and is directed to controlling the frequency of power on a mini-grid that is disconnectable from a utility grid.

Claim 1 of the patent will recite:

A method for operating a mini-grid including one or more power generation sources and one or more loads connected to a bus, comprising the steps of:

  • monitoring a condition of a utility grid;

  • disconnecting the mini-grid from the utility grid to operate the mini-grid independently in response to a power disruption over the utility grid;

  • monitoring at least one of a frequency and a voltage of power on the bus; and

  • providing an interconnect device connected to the bus, the interconnect device
    including at least one of: an energy storage device for absorbing or releasing real power to control the frequency of the power on the bus, and a power quality compensator for absorbing or releasing reactive power to control the voltage of the power on the bus.

A first Office Action rejected the claims under 35 U.S.C. 112 because the patent examiner did not understand where the interconnect device is and what it does.  Beacon amended the claims to more particularly claim the interconnect device, and the examiner then allowed the claims.

The application was first filed in 2008.  Although claim 1 does not define what the energy storage device is or how it works, Beacon's "fly-wheel" storage device is described at Beacon's web site.  It will be interesting to watch how broadly Beacon will attempt assert claim 1.

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