DOE grants $18M to projects that connect to storage systems

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Department of Energy is funding for the first time a portfolio of projects aimed exclusively at connecting solar power to energy storage systems.

The agency today announced $18 million for six projects led by or involving a utility.

All the projects aim to set up a yearlong field demonstration of solar technologies. They all plan to use smart inverters, devices that convert solar energy into alternating currents for the grid, but also tend to have additional functions like data streaming capability. The goal is to move closer to integrating photovoltaic power plants into the grid at a cost of less than 14 cents per kilowatt-hour.

“Energy storage, solar PV and smart grid technologies experienced incredible growth in 2015, and we expect they will play an increasingly important role in reaching the nation’s climate and clean energy goals in the years ahead,” said David Danielson, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The six projects:

  • A team led by Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison Co. will receive $4 million to use smart inverters for solar PV and battery storage systems, in conjunction with a microgrid community.
  • The Electric Power Research Institute will receive $3.1 million to “demonstrate technology for end-to-end grid integration of energy storage.” The work would be done with five utilities: FirstEnergy Corp., New York Power Authority, Consolidated Edison Inc., Southern Co. and Gulf Power Co.
  • Utility Austin Energy will receive $4.3 million to work with companies ranging from Tesla Motors Inc. to SolarEdge Technologies Inc. to develop a template for other regions to maximize the penetration of distributed solar.
  • Carnegie Mellon University — in partnership with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and Aquion Energy — will receive $1 million to develop and demonstrate a system that integrates smart inverters, energy storage and smart thermostats.
  • The Hawaiian Electric Co. will receive $2.4 million to develop technology that offers more “plug-and-play customer options for grid participation, and provides cost-effective grid response” capabilities to system operators, according to DOE.
  • Fraunhofer USA will receive $3.5 million to “develop and demonstrate a scalable, integrated PV, storage and facility load management solution” through the “SunDial” Global Scheduler, which helps manage power flows by acquiring and evaluating performance data from participating PV systems.

The awards fall under DOE’s SunShot Initiative and are part of its broader Grid Modernization Initiative, a strategy to address challenges such as integrating renewable power and preparing infrastructure for climate change.

Under the same initiative, DOE announced $220 million last week for more than 80 projects around the country to make the grid more resilient (E&ENews PM, Jan. 14).