A  photovoltaic (PV) cell that converts sunlight into electricity Nevodka/ iStock/ Getty Images

US$36 Million Sanctioned for Research on Solar Energy

DOE funds to improve security and grid reliability.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently approved up to US$36 million in research projects that will advance solar energy’s role in strengthening the resilience of the nation’s electricity grid.

While fires, natural disasters and cyber attacks can cause wide-spread power losses, even temporary disruptions in power quality can result in major economic losses. With more and more solar being added to the U.S. electricity generation portfolio, these projects will enable grid operators to rapidly detect physical and cyber-based abnormalities in the power system and utilize solar generation to recover quickly from power outages, in many cases without human control.

“I have no higher priority than to support the security of the country’s critical energy infrastructure,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry. “These projects will work to give solar technologies greater resiliency as they are integrated into our electric grid. A reliable electricity grid is essential to our national and economic security, and the everyday lives of American people.”

The projects will develop new technologies, including: “grid-forming” inverters, cyber-secure communications for critical grid components during emergency operations, smart sensors and automated control schemes. The research will culminate in grid management tools and models that show how solar situational awareness will enhance power system resilience at critical infrastructure locations such as hospitals or emergency response centers.

The following research projects were selected:

  • Arizona State University (Tempe, Arizona):  US$3.6 million
  • Kansas State University (Manhattan, Kansas): US$2.9 million
  • North Carolina State University (Raleigh, North Carolina): US$3 million
  • Siemens Corporation, Corporate Technology (Princeton, New Jersey): US$5 million
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte, North Carolina): US$3.7 million
  • University of Oklahoma (Norman, Oklahoma): US$4.5 million
  • University of South Florida (Tampa, Florida): US$1 million

The following research projects will also conduct field validation of the advanced technologies that they develop:

  • Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (Knoxville, Tennessee) with multiple partners, including Pecan Street and Austin Energy: US$5 million
  • Electrical Distribution Design, Inc. (Blacksburg, Virginia), partnering with Pepco: US$3 million
  • University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah), partnering with PacificCorp: US$4 million

These technologies will enable grid operators to integrate increasing amounts of solar generation onto the grid in a cost-effective, secure, resilient and reliable manner.

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