DOE announces $220m in grid modernization research

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Jan. 14 announced awards for 88 grid modernization research projects to receive up to $220m over three years, including several efforts focusing on transmission planning and smart grid technologies.

The research will be led by DOE’s 14 National Laboratories, in collaboration with public and private-sector partners, DOE said.

The funding is subject to appropriations from Congress and final negotiations with award recipients, DOE noted.

The development builds on DOE’s Grid Modernization Initiative, and it was announced by DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz at a utility control center in Miami, Fla., DOE said. The effort stems from the outreach of President Barack Obama’s administration to communities following the president’s Jan. 12 State of the Union address, with a “Cabinet in Your Community” tour having members of the president’s Cabinet engage citizens in towns, cities and Native American reservations about issues facing the country.

“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,” Moniz said in a Jan. 14 statement.

The effort lays out a research, development and demonstration agenda for a modernized power grid, building on concepts and recommendations from DOE’s Quadrennial Energy Review and Quadrennial Technology Review, DOE said.

The research work is broken down into various categories, such as transmission reliability, advanced grid modeling, energy storage, smart grid, cybersecurity, transformer resilience, solar energy, wind and water technologies, energy systems risk and predictive capabilities, along with “crosscutting projects” designed to have an impact across multiple technologies.

Among some of the transmission-related efforts selected to receive funding are a Midwest Interconnection Seams Study, which would bring together industry and academic experts to evaluate transmission seams between the U.S. interconnections “and propose upgrades to existing facilities that reduce the cost of modernizing the nation’s power system,” DOE said in a breakdown of the projects.

That effort is slated to receive $1.2m over two years.

The breakdown also lists efforts to protect power grid infrastructure from “malicious cyber attacks” and to better predict outages stemming from natural disasters. One such effort, involving integration of distributed energy resources (DER), would receive $1.8m over three years.

Several projects are targeted to improve integration of energy storage or renewable resources, including ways to mitigate the variability of renewable resources.

Enhanced situational awareness among grid operators is addressed in several projects, along with development of new ways to use information from synchrophasors and phasor measurement units. One such project, slated to receive $3m over three years, involves the development of grid modeling tools to monitor the transmission grid during normal operations and to localize significant frequency events in seconds after they occur.

The public sector participants listed in some of the projects include FERC, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Bonneville Power Administration, various state agencies and a host of universities.

Among the private sector participants are NERC, the Electric Power Research Institute, the American Public Power Association, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the North American Synchrophasor Initiative, several independent system operators and numerous investor-owned utilities.