Idaho National Laboratory (INL) announced last week that it will collaborate with ProtoGen, a Pennsylvania-based energy consulting company and microgrid developer, on the design, siting and development of a microgrid resilience corridor that will span parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The research project will consider eight planned or existing microgrids across a nearly 200-mile stretch between Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The first phase of the research, slated for 2024, will focus on an 18-mile section of the corridor that includes municipal utilities in Quakertown, Perkasie, Hatfield and Lansdale, Pennsylvania. The four utilities have a combined annual load of 300,000 MWh.
The initial goal is to identify technical, economic and regulatory issues around interconnecting the towns’ substations, transmission feeders and generation, including distributed energy resources such as solar, biogas and battery energy storage.
“Microgrids too often focus on internal economic and resilience benefits. This thinking is limited and not easily scalable — especially as a rationale for rate-basing microgrid investments in traditional and deregulated utility territories,” said Kevin Wright, president of ProtoGen. “Our collaboration with INL will establish a logistically significant basis for a pilot project that will allow us to evaluate new and existing rules, policies and business models related to microgrids.”
Pennsylvania corridor to serve as test bed, proof of concept
The research project is part of the INL’s Net-Zero Microgrid (NZM) program, which was launched in 2021 to research and develop carbon-free solutions that enhance the resilience of critical infrastructure.
The NZM program is funded by the Department of Energy and ultimately aims to achieve net-zero carbon resilience.
As part of their collaboration, INL and ProtoGen will also evaluate how combinations of alternating current and direct current technologies can connect microgrids that serve their respective communities during extended power outages, such as occurred during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
“Partnering with ProtoGen provides the Net-Zero Microgrid program with a pathway to demonstrate tools and research that are viable in the hands of the commercial world,” said Tim McJunkin, technical director of the NZM program. “The Pennsylvania corridor project gives insight into solutions for nontechnical hurdles to advancing community resilience within a regional transmission organization market.”
According to a statement from the company, ProtoGen believes 56 corridors such as the one under development in Pennsylvania and New Jersey will be needed across the continental U.S. to ensure the country is prepared for disasters and can meet the challenges brought on by climate change.
“Innovation through the tactical configuration of microgrids is the future of grid planning,” said Wright. “While natural disasters are inevitable, we want to minimize the impacts on those who are affected by them while maximizing the ability of communities to help each other,” he added.
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