Federal grants support microgrids

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded over $8 million in funding for 7 microgrid projects.  Will microgrids play an increasing role in the U.S. electricity industry?

Solar photovoltaic panels can serve as distributed generation for microgrids.

Microgrids -- localized grids capable of operating as energy islands using distributed generation, energy storage, and distribution wires, as well as able to connect to the broader utility grid -- can offer participants and society at large significant value.  These benefits can include increased reliability against storm damage and infrastructure damage, reduced emissions of carbon and other pollutants, and reduced costs.

The Energy Department runs a portfolio of microgrid activities ranging from direct research and development to building community support.  Most recently, the Department announced over $8 million in grant funding to support 7 microgrid projects.  The Department selected these projects based on their ability to develop advanced microgrid controllers and system designs for microgrids less than 10 megawatts:

  • ALSTOM Grid, Inc.: about $1.2 million to research and design community microgrid systems for the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and the Philadelphia Water Department, using portions of the former Philadelphia Navy Yard. 
  • Burr Energy, LLC: about $1.2 million to design and build a resilient microgrid to allow the Olney, Maryland Town Center to operate for weeks in the event of a regional outage, and a second microgrid for multi-use commercial development in Maryland. 
  • Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd): about $1.2 million to develop and test a commercial-grade microgrid controller capable of controlling a system of two or more interconnected microgrids, serving civic infrastructure including police and fire department headquarters, transportation and healthcare facilities, and private residences. 
  • Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI): about $1.2 million to develop a commercially-viable standardized microgrid controller that can allow a community to provide continuous power for critical loads. 
  • General Electric Company (GE): about $1.2 million to develop an enhanced microgrid control system in Potsdam, New York, by adding new capabilities, such as frequency regulation. 
  • TDX Power, Inc.: about $1.2 million to engineer, design, simulate, and build a microgrid control system on remote Saint Paul Island, an island located in the Bering Sea off mainland Alaska. 
  • The University of California, Irvine (UCI): about $1.2 million for the Advanced Power and Energy Program at UCI to develop and test a generic microgrid controller intended to be readily adapted to manage a range of microgrid systems, and supporting the development of open source industry standards.

Each project also includes an awardee cost share ranging from 20 percent to about 50 percent.  Will the DOE funds lead to better and more widely adopted microgrids?

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