US DOE Channels over $10M to Microgrids for Grid R&D

Jan. 15, 2016
Microgrid funding – including money to reduce diesel use in Alaska microgrids – is part of a new $220 million grid modernization effort unveiled Thursday by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Microgrid funding – including money to reduce diesel use in Alaska microgrids – is part of a new $220 million grid modernization effort unveiled Thursday by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Microgrids are being explored within five of the 88 research projects that cover an array of technologies to make the grid more reliable, efficient, integrated and clean.

The comprehensive program also focuses on warding off cyberattacks.

“Our grid is an absolutely essential underpinning to efficient operation for the economy,” said Lynn Orr, DOE under secretary for science and energy, in a media briefing. “In the race for global leadership in the 21st century economy, the countries that pursue these innovations and guard against the full array of modern threats will be strongly positioned to out-compete those that don’t.”

The $220 million is part of a broader DOE program called the Grid Modernization Initiative, which the federal government plans to pursue over several years.

The DOE intends to roll out news in the coming weeks of additional grid modernization efforts, including competitive funding opportunities.

“This is just the beginning. There are going to be a number of opportunities for engagement and partnership broadly going forward,” said David Danielson, who leads the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

To that end, shortly after the media briefing, the federal agency issued a notice of a second announcement coming Tuesday on $18 million for six solar energy storage projects.

More microgrid grid opportunites are coming, as well, according to Patricia Hoffman, assistant secretary for the DOE Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability

“We will continue to have additional research efforts on microgrids that will compliment some of the technologies we have already been working on, such as advanced control technologies for microgrids that we have done in the research program as well as advanced design studies,” Hoffman said.

The program includes more than $10 million in microgrid R&D

During the media briefing, the DOE highlighted some of the initial R&D projects, starting with a $1 million effort in Alaska to cut diesel use and increase reliability for the state’s 200 remote microgrids. Alaskans now face power outages that can extend from days to months, according to Hoffman. The goal is to decrease outages and reduce diesel consumption by 50 percent without increasing system costs.

The partners working on the Alaska project include the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), Alaska Energy Authority, University of Alaska- Fairbanks, University of Alaska- Anchorage, Renewable Energy Alaska Project, Intelligent Energy Systems.

In all, funding for projects that involve microgrids totals more than $10 million. In addition to the Alaska initiative, other projects that include microgrids are:

An industrial microgrid analysis and design for energy security and resiliency. The team will investigate and analyze the risks, costs, and benefits of a microgrid utilizing renewable energy systems at the UPS WorldPort and Centennial Hub facilities. The project will result in a roadmap to help industries evaluate microgrid adoption by defining institutional and regulatory challenges associated with development of industrial-based resilient systems.  Partners are SNL< Oak Ridge National Laboratory, United Parcel Service, Waste Management, Burns McDonnell, Harshaw Trane, Louisville Gas & Electric and the State of Kentucky. $1M

A DER siting and optimization tool for California. The intent is to deliver an integrated distributed energy resources (DER) planning and optimization platform, hosted online, that is able to identify meaningful behind-the-meter DER adoption patterns, potential microgrid sites and demand-side resources. The project also will evaluate the impact of high renewable penetration feeders on the distribution and transmission grid.

Partners are LBNL, NREL, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Stanford Linear (SLAC) California Public Utilities Commission, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), Metropolitan Council of Governments, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) $1.3M

A transactive energy campus demonstration. Three campuses will develop and test a range of transactive control activities. The University of Washington project will emphasize energy storage and coordination for peak management and flexibility.  Washington State University will leverage its microgrid and major campus loads and thermal storage to deliver transactive response.  And PNNL will advance load controls to help the City of Richland better manage its demand limits.  OE and BTO collaborated in the design and cost share of the project.

Partners include PNNL, the Washington State Clean Energy Fund, University of Washington, Washington State University          $4M

Enabling a high penetration of distributed PV through the optimization of sub-transmission voltage regulation. Voltage regulation challenges at sub-transmission will be a barrier for high penetration of solar PV. The project will develop a coordinated real-time sub-transmission volt-var control tool (CReST-VCT) to optimize the use of reactive power control devices to stabilize voltage fluctuations caused by intermittent PV.  Together, the real-time control and planning tools will remove a major roadblock to the increased use of distributed PV. CReST-VCT will be demonstrated and validated on North Carolina State University (NCSU) microgrid test systems with hardware-in-the-loop simulations. Field demonstration will be performed on the Duke Energy system feeder test bed and selected sub-transmission buses.

Partners are PNNL, North Carolina State University, GE, One-Cycle Control, Duke Energy. $3M

Other projects will focus on devices and integrated system testing, sensing and measurement, system operation control and power flow. system design and planning, security and resiliency and institutional support.

The grid modernization program is designed to bring together national labs and private partners. Participants in in the initial 88 initial projects include 14 federal labs and 100 external partners, among them technology vendors, utilities, reliability organization, universities, and state and local governments.

The DOE expects work to begin this quarter on the 88 projects. A list is here of the projects receiving the initial funding, including those that offer microgrid funds. The agency plans to hold a series of regional workshops to explain the grid modernization effort and gather more participants.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

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