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Department of Energy Selects $36 Million to Advance Solar Energy Integration

; Date: March 25, 2019

Tags: US Department of Energy »»»» Solar Energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected up to (www.energy.gov) $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 cyberattacks 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): $3.6 million
  • Kansas State University (Manhattan, Kansas): $2.9 million
  • North Carolina State University (Raleigh, North Carolina): $3 million
  • Siemens Corporation, Corporate Technology (Princeton, New Jersey): $5 million
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte, North Carolina): $3.7 million
  • University of Oklahoma (Norman, Oklahoma): $4.5 million
  • University of South Florida (Tampa, Florida): $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: $5 million
  • Electrical Distribution Design, Inc. (Blacksburg, Virginia), partnering with Pepco: $3 million
  • University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah), partnering with PacificCorp: $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.

For more information on the Solar Energy Technologies Office, visit their website (www.energy.gov) HERE.

Advanced Systems Integration for Solar Technologies (ASSIST): Situational Awareness and Resilient Solutions for Critical Infrastructure

The Advanced Systems Integration for Solar Technologies (ASSIST): Situational Awareness and Resilient Solutions for Critical Infrastructure funding program will improve situational awareness of solar energy systems, especially at critical infrastructure sites, increase resilience to cyber and physical threats, and strengthen solar integration on the grid. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the program on October 15, 2018, and on March 25, 2018, it announced 10 project selections.


As more solar energy systems are installed across the country, grid operators must be able to ensure grid reliability and deliver energy to critical infrastructure while mitigating physical and cyber threats. These projects aim to streamline technology transfer, invent tools to manage situational awareness, and validate technologies that will help the grid withstand disruption and continually provide electricity to customers.

The projects fall under two topics:

  • Research, Development, and Technology Transfer for Solar Situational Awareness: These projects will aim to create tools and models that show how solar situational awareness will enhance power-system resilience at critical infrastructure locations.
  • Research, Development, Technology Transfer, and Validation of Proactive Resilience Solutions: These projects include field testing to show how solar situational awareness can enhance grid resiliency with high penetrations of photovoltaics (PV). To secure power to critical infrastructure during widespread disruptions from cyber or natural threats, these project teams will work with partners to validate solutions in the field.


Projects in this funding program will design control strategies, real-time system monitoring, robust communications, and other innovative approaches to increase grid resilience, reliability, and security while lowering the costs of solar energy. To this end, ensuring solar technologies are compatible with the grid is a priority.


Award and cost share amounts are subject to change pending negotiations

TOPIC 1.1: Research, Development, and Technology Transfer for Solar Situational Awareness


Project Name: Enhancing Grid Reliability and Resilience through Novel Distributed Energy Resource Control, Total Situational Awareness, and Integrated Distribution-Transmission Representation

Location: Tempe, AZ

DOE Award Amount: $3.5 million

Awardee Cost Share: $900,000

Project Summary: Arizona State University will build enhanced grid models by integrating transmission and distribution analyses. Using sensors and communications equipment, this tool can enable coordinated distributed resource responses, which can help increase the amount of renewable power operating in the distribution system.


Project Name: Enabling Cybersecurity, Situational Awareness and Resilience in Distribution Grids with High Penetration of Photovoltaics

Location: Manhattan, KS

DOE Award Amount: $2.8 million

Awardee Cost Share: $700,000

Project Summary: Kansas State University will invent a compressive sensing method that requires fewer inputs than usual so grid operators can observe quickly changing grid conditions and determine vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure. The team is developing smart inverter controls to detect cyber intrusions and initiate network defenses.


Project Name: Photovoltaic Analysis and Response Support Platform for Solar Situational Awareness and Resiliency Services

Location: Raleigh, NC

DOE Award Amount: $3.1 million

Awardee Cost Share: $800,000

Project Summary: North Carolina State University will design a modeling tool to determine the optimal response of renewables on transmission and distribution systems, as well as behind-the-meter response for small-scale solar energy systems. With real-time sensor readings and a cost-benefit analysis, this tool can be used for grid planning and to help restore power during an outage.


Project Name: Autonomous and Resilient Operation of Energy Systems with Renewables

Location: Princeton, NJ

DOE Award Amount: $5 million

Awardee Cost Share: $1.4 million

Project Summary: Siemens Corporation will create a microgrid control system that can coordinate distributed microgrids to work together. The system will include a communications-free method to increase grid resilience and autonomously restore power during a blackout using smart inverters.


Project Name: Protection and Restoration Solutions to Reliable and Resilient Integration of Grid-Connected Photovoltaic Installations and Distributed Energy Resources: Design, Testbed, Proof of Work, and Impact Studies

Location: Norman, OK

DOE Award Amount: $4.5 million

Awardee Cost Share: $1.7 million

Project Summary: The University of Oklahoma will build an intelligent sensor network that communicates with the distribution system. The network will autonomously detect and isolate problems while using solar energy to help restore power to the distribution grid after an outage.


Project Name: Optimal Reconfiguration and Resilient Control Framework for Real-Time Photovoltaic Dispatch to Manage Critical Infrastructure

Location: Charlotte, NC

DOE Award Amount: $3.7 million

Awardee Cost Share: $900,000

Project Summary: The University of North Carolina at Charlotte will devise a grid management tool that detects cyber and physical threats and can form dynamic clusters to optimally manage photovoltaics and energy storage to improve grid resiliency and support critical infrastructure. This tool will have two-level control with reconfigurable grid networks, which allow operators to isolate damaged sections while still powering the rest of the grid.


Project Name: Modeling and Control of Solar Photovoltaics for Large Grid Disturbances and Weak Grids

Location: Tampa, FL

DOE Award Amount: $2 million

Awardee Cost Share: $300,000

Project Summary: The University of South Florida will design dynamic models of utility-scale solar plants and their interactions on grids with large penetrations of generation through distributed energy resources like solar-plus-storage systems and wind power. These models will be used to construct a coordination strategy and a stability enhancement module for photovoltaic and storage systems so they can respond to rapidly changing grid conditions.

Topic 1.2: Research, Development, Technology Transfer and Validation of Proactive Resilience Solutions


Project Name: Solar Critical Infrastructure Energization System

Location: Knoxville, TN

DOE Award Amount: $5 million

Awardee Cost Share: $3.6 million

Project Summary: EPRI will develop a pre-planning analysis technique, using new communications standards and advanced inverters, to determine how to methodically supply power to critical infrastructure with any resource available on the grid. To validate this technique, EPRI will work with several partners, including Austin Energy and Pecan Street.


Project Name: Faster-than-Real-Time Simulation with Demonstration for Resilient Distributed Energy Resource Integration

Location: Blacksburg, VA

DOE Award Amount: $3.1 million

Awardee Cost Share: $2.6 million

Project Summary: Electrical Distribution Design will invent a technique to speed analysis of power flow using graphic trace analysis, or outputs from a bar graph instead of complex calculations, and then validate it in the field with its project partner, Pepco. This will enable evaluation of the distribution network down to the secondary network and allow for rapid detection of power system abnormalities caused by instability, cyber intrusion, or other factors.


Project Name: Solar-Assisted State-Aware and Resilient Infrastructure System

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

DOE Award Amount: $4.4 million

Awardee Cost Share: $4.8 million

Project Summary: The University of Utah will invent an automated resilience management system that will use distributed solar photovoltaics, distributed energy resources, sensors, and distribution monitoring and switching equipment to improve the resilience of critical infrastructure and emergency centers. The system will include a cyber detection and outage management tool. PacificCorp is partnering with the university in order to validate the system.

David Herron
David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.