The solar industry is ready to expand at a ridiculous rate, but if the grid lags behind, progress will fall short of potential. Hopefully, the Department of Energy’s latest announcement of up to $220 million in new funding will keep grid modernization moving the right way.
The funding is for a consortium of DOE national laboratories and partners to support critical research and development over the next three years to help modernize our nation’s electrical power grid. The funding coincided with the release of the DOE’s comprehensive new Grid Modernization Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP), a blueprint for the Department’s research, development, and demonstration agenda to enable a modernized grid.
Julia Hamm, President and CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), had this to say on the Department of Energy’s announcement:
“The Department of Energy’s funding for grid modernization comes at a critical moment in the evolution of solar as a mainstream energy resource. Distributed energy technologies — such as storage and advanced inverters — have the potential for integrating more solar onto the grid in ways that will be cost-effective for all utility customers.
“The projects announced today should help accelerate this process, which is already underway at a number of utilities. Equally important, they will produce solutions that will work across the diverse geographic and regulatory markets the awardees represent.
“We are also proud that four of the six funding recipients are SEPA members, and we look forward to helping to publicize the results of these projects through our education initiatives, which reach more than 1,000 members of the electric power industry. The technologies developed in these projects will not only drive grid modernization, they will also generate new services and business models that will benefit customers, utilities and the grid.”
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will be strongly supporting this effort, bringing its unique array of experts and resources together to participate in 48 of the 88 awarded projects announced today. See the full list here.
“Modernizing the U.S. electrical grid is essential to reducing carbon emissions, creating safeguards against attacks on our infrastructure, and keeping the lights on,” Secretary Moniz said at the announcement. “Our Quadrennial Energy Review and Quadrennial Technology Review identified needs and opportunities to invest in the grid. This public-private partnership between our National Laboratories, industry, academia, and state and local government agencies will help us further strengthen our ongoing efforts to improve our electrical infrastructure so that it is prepared to respond to the nation’s energy needs for decades to come.”
A full list of projects, participating laboratories and partners, and more information on the Grid Modernization Initiative are available at . Some of the outcomes of these projects will include:
• A national network of laboratory facilities for use in testing and validation of emerging grid-related technologies and systems.
• New common standards and test procedures to ensure that emerging grid technologies can communicate with one another and work together to provide energy services to customers.
• New decision support tools for integrated planning and operation of distributed energy technologies, such as solar, demand response, and smart consumer appliances.
• Advances in grid design and planning tools to take into account the increasing number of emerging technologies being deployed on the grid in homes, businesses, and communities.
• Optimal approaches for integration of wind turbines, solar PV systems, smart buildings, electric and fuel cell vehicles, and hydrogen technologies into a modernized grid.
• A new testbed for development of advanced distribution management systems that will allow grid operators to more effectively utilize grid assets, increase resilience and reliability, and enable a wider choice of energy services for consumers.
NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.
— Solar Builder magazine