Advanced Control Systems’ new CEO seems to have a knack for perfect timing whether it’s in developing his career or in enabling real-time control of the electric grid.
The April 7 announcement of his appointment to lead the Norcross-based global provider of smart grid automation was followed by the company’s announcement on April 8 that it had been selected to install its latest outage management system at an electrical facility in southwestern Ontario.
How likely is it that a native of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, would come to oversee operations in the Americas, Asia and Europe for a number of the foremost energy companies in the world including KEMA, the global energy adviser subsequently called DNV GLV, and the global powerhouse Siemens.
Mr. Sullivan told Global Atlanta that he began his career by installing 11KV lines in southern Africa as a student while studying electrical engineering at the University of Cape Town.
His first encounter with digital automation was with programing the 8080 microprocessor chip in machine language in the early 1970s on behalf of Eskom, South Africa’s largest utility.
While at Eskom he worked with the instrumentation and controls required to automate the utility’s large multi-unit coal-fired power plants, which typically had six boiler-generator packaged units known as “six packs,” not to be confused with beer containers.
Instead of remaining in Africa, Mr. Sullivan seized an opportunity in 1988 to work with Siemens in Germany where he was exposed to rapidly developing electrical and control technologies that were being deployed in industrial processes around the world.
He first moved to the U.S. in 1992 where he was responsible for establishing a business for Siemens, capable of delivering advanced digital based electrical and control systems for the new combined cycle power plans in the U.S.
The Brandenton, Fla., operation eventually moved to Milwaukee, Wis., and shortly after the 1996 Olympic Games, he moved to Atlanta where Siemens manufactured, packaged and tested containers with advance control and electrical systems to address the boom in new gas turbine based power plants.
Assuming a large number of roles at Siemens, he successfully managed the growth of the Energy Management and Automation division of Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution Inc. based in Minneapolis, Minn., where he was responsible for the deployment of advance transmission management systems and the automation of the market mechanisms required for the structure wholesale energy markets operated by large Independent System Operators (ISOs).
His global exposure to electrical grid systems and his intimate knowledge of the grid systems around the world has prepared him for his new role at ACS, which provides advanced automation technology for the transmission and distribution of energy leading technology in Outage Management Systems (OMS) and energy management systems (EMS and DMS) designed to optimize the network in real-time.
He told Global Atlanta that his immediate focus is to increase market awareness of ACS’ capabilities. “We have kept the genie in the box for too long” he said. “Our market share is growing rapidly, which will result in doubling our business in the next couple of years.”
He referred specifically to ACS’ Precise, Real-time, Information, System Management technology (PRISM), which he called a leading edge solid technology that provides mobile applications supporting feeder and sub-station automation.
While gaining new customers such as the Ontario-based electrical utility that selected ACS’ smart grid automation technology, he wants to make certain that current customers receive support as they advance their systems with state-of-the-art PRISM technologies.
His confidence is based in part on the rapidly changing demands on grid systems around the world.
In the U.S., he said that utilities need ACS technologies to ensure optimal response and restoration time to outages caused by severe and unpredictable climate conditions, while in Europe the focus is on the integration of large scale renewables and the strengthening of the grid across the European Union nations.
“In Europe there is proactive investment in the grid to ensure reliability, and today they are fortunate that the weather is more predictable,” he said. “But this investment and transition of renewables costs the consumer more.”
Unlike in the U.S. where the grid is extensive and operates in a number of areas under extreme environmental conditions, the operating philosophy, he added, is “If the grid fails, let’s ensure we can rapidly restore the system.” In Europe, he added, there are planned outages designed to proactively invest in strengthening the grid.
Mr. Sullivan said that ACS’ fault detection technology enables utilities to automatically isolate within a section of their distribution systems the problems caused by outages, thereby enhancing the reliability of electric service to consumers.
He also said that he is following closely the development of new energy sources coupled to electric grids, such as those generated by solar and wind technologies.
“The key challenges for our global energy industry,” he added, “as it undergoes transformation towards a sustainable energy supply and delivery business, is to gain precise control of the distributed energy resources at the edge of the grid.”
According to Mr. Sullivan the traditional model of “generation follows load” is no longer sustainable given the variability of supply and changing load characteristics.
“Balancing supply and demand at the feeder level in real-time is the key to strengthening energy supply and distribution,” he said.
Mr. Sullivan is to provide the keynote address at a conference to be held in Atlanta on Monday, May 4. to learn more about the conference, call Rebecca Kelly, ACS’ international marketing and corporate communications manager, at 770-446-8854, ext. 4614, or by email at rebecca.Kelly@ACSPower.com