With 88 projects from coast to coast, it might be the biggest grid edge R&D effort ever. Jeff St. John explains in gtm how the money will be spent.
Back in June, the Department of Energy hinted at a new funding program in the works, aimed at supporting research and development of technology to integrate rooftop solar, energy storage, smart buildings and utility software controls at the edge of the grid. Last week, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz unveiled the fruits of this effort: a three-year plan to direct $220 million toward 88 projects across the country.
The Grid Modernization Multi-Year Program Plan will bring a consortium of 14 national laboratories together with more than 100 companies, utilities, research organizations, state regulators and regional grid operators. The scope of this work includes integrating renewable energy, energy storage and smart building technologies at the edges of the grid network, at a much greater scale than is done today.
That will require a complicated mix of customer-owned and utility-controlled technology, all of which must be secured against cyberattacks and extreme weather events. And at some point, all of this new technology will need to become part of how utilities, grid operators, regulators, ratepayers and new energy services providers manage the economics of the grid.
DOE has already started releasing funds to 10 “pioneer regional partnerships,” or “early-stage, public-private collaborative projects that address specific near-term grid modernization issues that are important to specific states and regional stakeholders,” David Danielson, assistant secretary of DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said in a conference call last week.
The projects range from remote microgrids in Alaska and grid resiliency in New Orleans, to renewable energy integration in Vermont and Hawaii, and scaling up to statewide energy regulatory overhauls in California and New York. Others are providing software simulation capabilities to utilities and grid operators around the country, or looking at ways to tie the country’s massive eastern and western grids into a more secure and efficient whole.