A $3.45 billion federal investment in grid resilience and reliability will provide capital for about 400 microgrid projects across the country in the near future, the U.S. Department of Energy reported this week.
This funding announcement releases money allocated by the Infrastructure Act passed in late 2021. The funding round will help leverage another $8 billion in public and private investments around clean electricity projects, according to the DOE release.
The $1 trillion original package, known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, passed by a 22-vote margin in the U.S. House of Representatives and was signed by President Biden two years ago. The complete funding included $65 billion for overall grid improvements and $7.5 billion to build a national network of electric vehicle charging stations.
“Extreme weather events fueled by climate change will continue to strain the nation’s aging transmission systems, but President Biden’s Investing in America agenda will ensure America’s power grid can provide reliable, affordable power,” Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement. “Today’s announcement represents the largest-ever direct investment in critical grid infrastructure, supporting projects will hard systems improve energy reliability and affordability—all while generating union jobs for highly skilled workers.”
Nearly 90 percent of the designed projects will contain labor union partnerships or involve collective bargaining agreements, according to the release. Altogether, about 35 GW of renewable energy is supported through the funding.
Microgrids were specifically named among the goals of the grid resiliency part of the bill, titled the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships Program (GRIPS). Microgrids also are eligible within a $17 billion funding portion reserved for ports and another $25 billion for airports.
This week’s funding around GRIPS includes selected projects with Georgie electric cooperatives, Louisiana community resilience hubs, work with utility DTE Energy to deploy microgrids designed to help reduce outage impacts in Michigan, distributed energy projects in Pennsylvania with PPL Electric Utilities Corp., and various projects in Oregon engaging with tribes and utility Portland General Electric.
Spencer Pederson, senior vice president of public affairs for the National Electricial Manufacturers Association, praised the GRIP awards, saying it signaled a major step in grid modernization.
“This funding targets transmission grid expansion, enabling integration of renewable energy technologies like wind and solar, hardens the grid to make it more resilient against extreme weather, and will help build microgrids to serve critical facilities like hospitals and emergency facilities,” Pederson said in the NEMA statement. “All of these elements have a place in NEMA’s vision for a more electrified and connected economy.”
The planned electrification of the transportation, commercial and industrial sectors will require enormous expansion in both capacity and infrastructure for the nation’s power grid. On-site, island-able power systems often comprised of solar panels, battery storage and generators can take some of the pressure off of utility grid substations and centralized plants.
Since the early 1990s, the U.S. microgrid industry has risen from less than 30 sites totaling 570 MW to nearly 700 microgrids capable of generating close to 4.4 GW of electricity.
Data centers, EV charging stations, military bases, healthcare facilities, manufacturing and commercial sites and university campuses are all considered mission critical locations for a localized layer of power reliability.
The microgrid sector is anticipated to triple in size value from 2020 to 2030, according to various market forecasts including Allied Market Research, Fortune Business Insights, Global Market Insights and others.
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