Lockheed taps in to electric smart grid market

Defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin announced its entry to the smart grid market yesterday, citing partnerships with multiple industry-leading utility companies. Though the company has been making inroads to help upgrade the nation’s electric grid for some time, announcements from the last few weeks have solidified their intentions to make a play for the nearly $4 billion in stimulus money for smart grids.

In an interview with Reuters, Lockheed’s Thomas Grumbly said the company’s energy sales could reach $1 billion by 2012, due to the strong interest in securing the nation’s energy infrastructure. With this sort of ramp-up in mind, Lockheed capped several new energy-related announcements last month by naming a half dozen new partnerships Wednesday.

Lockheed Martin is partnering with utility companies and electric cooperatives that have operations spanning the East Coast and multiple states in the upper and lower Midwest to make the nation’s electricity grid more efficient, reliable, interoperable and secure, the company said Wednesday. Partners including PPL Electric Utilities, American Electric Power and the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative are working with Lockheed to develop real-time communication and security operations throughout their infrastructure. But the company is not focused only on smart grid, they have also pledged support to fund research on the broad subject of climate change.

Accompanying the announcement yesterday was a major research partnership with MIT to collaborate on global climate initiatives, such as carbon modeling and utility-scale energy storage. Lockheed will invest $5 million over the next five years in the MIT Energy Initiative to sustain research on alternative energies and energy management, the company said.

Adding further bona fides to the company’s smart grid competencies, last week, Lockheed Principal of Energy and Cyber Services, Ken Van Meter was elected to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s The Smart Grid Interoperability Panel. The Panel is a public-private partnership to support NIST in its endeavor to coordinate development of a framework that includes protocols and model standards for information management to achieve interoperability of smart grid devices and systems.

By leveraging its expertise in cyber security Lockheed is looking to make smart grid use safer, group Enterprise Integration Group president Bill Gram said in a statement. “Our expertise managing complex projects and implementing cyber security solutions for the nation’s most critical systems positions us to help lay the foundation for an interoperable, scalable and secure grid,” he said.

Along with several leading technology companies including McAfee, Symantic, VMware, Microsoft, Cisco and others, Lockheed formed the NexGen Cyber Innovation and Technology Center. The Center will to help provide early threat detection, protection, and multi-layer autonomic self-healing capabilities. The Center also serves as the central site for Lockheed’s global cyber innovation range that conducts safe attack and defense testing simulating customer environments.

By providing a range of smart grid components and capabilities, Lockheed joins a growing crowd of defense contractors currently engaged with the smart grid market. A recent story by Greentech, outlines how Raytheon, Boeing and BAE Systems are all creating products to help tap this emerging market.

“We have extremely good potential, and we have the plans on the books. When you look at the rates of growth that are happening, it will be soon a growth engine for the company,” Mr. Grumbly told Reuters about Lockheed’s energy sales.