Obama admin invests $8M to harden microgrids

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Department of Energy today doled out $8 million for the construction of new microgrid projects across the United States, part of the government’s Climate Action Plan and push to harden the grid against increasingly violent storms.

The funds will support microgrid projects in Alaska, California, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Tennessee — systems that can detach from the U.S. grid, operate autonomously and continue to generate power should an attack or severe storm trigger widespread damage.

“Building in grid resiliency has gained greater urgency in recent years, as demonstrated by the economic and personal losses from electricity outages due to severe weather,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement. “Keeping the power on during extreme weather events and other electric grid disruptions is essential, particularly so that critical facilities such as hospitals and water treatment plants can continue operating.”

DOE is slated to provide $1.2 million to each of the following recipients for microgrid construction and research:

  • Alstom Grid Inc. in Redmond, Wash., will research and design community microgrid systems for the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. and the Philadelphia Water Department, using portions of the former Philadelphia Navy Yard as a test bed.
  • Burr Energy LLC, in Little Falls, Minn., will design and build a resilient microgrid for a town center in Olney, Md., and a second microgrid in Prince George’s County, Md.
  • Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison Co. will develop and test a commercial-grade microgrid controller capable of controlling for two or more interconnected microgrids. The systems will support police and fire department headquarters, major transportation infrastructure, health care facilities for seniors and private residences.
  • The Electric Power Research Institute in Knoxville, Tenn., will develop a commercially viable and standardized technology that will act as a control center for microgrids.
  • General Electric Co. will develop an enhanced microgrid control system to help ramp up resiliency for systems in New York, including emergency service providers, utilities and other essential services, during power disruptions.
  • TDX Power Inc., based in Anchorage, Alaska, will engineer, design, simulate and build a microgrid control system on Saint Paul Island in the Bering Sea, hundreds of miles from mainland Alaska.
  • The University of California, Irvine, will develop and test a control system for microgrids. The California Independent System Operator Corp., California’s grid operator, will provide technical advice on the project, which could pave the way for the development of open-source industry standards, according to DOE.