Solar Power

13 projects that are helping make it easier for utilities to manage solar on the grid

Adding more solar energy to the grid is a key driver for transforming the grid from a centralized, static, rigid system to a more distributed, dynamic and flexible system, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

Therefore, EERE’s SunShot Initiative will provide up to $ 30 million in new projects to support the integration of solar energy into the nation’s electric grid. SunShot will fund 13 projects, as part of the EERE’s Enabling Extreme Real-Time Grid Integration of Solar Energy (ENERGISE) program.

In all, EERE hopes that through ENERGISE it can enable the addition of solar at 50% of the peak distribution load by 2020, and 100% of the peak distribution load by 2030.

Here’s a look at the projects EERE has chosen*:

*Award and cost share amounts are subject to change pending negotiations.

1. PPL Electric Utilities in Allentown, Pennsylvania

SunShot award amount: $ 3,320,000

This is the largest project chosen and will use several different grid technologies to monitor, control and optimize a high penetration of solar.

2. Advanced Microgrid Solutions in San Francisco, California

SunShot award amount: $ 3,241,628

Advanced Microgrid Solutions designs, finances, installs and manages advanced energy management solutions for commercial, industrial and government building owners. Along with partners, it will work on this project  to demonstrate the use of advanced energy storage technologies to integrate high penetrations of solar energy into the electric grid in Texas. The team is looking at how solar, electric cars and energy storage interact with management programs. This project aims to deploy software that cooperatives and utilities can use to dispatch solar while ensuring secure and normal operations of distribution networks.

Texas is the new frontier for integrating renewable energy into the electric grid,” said AMS CEO Susan Kennedy. “The enormous penetration of wind and solar in Texas has created significant challenges in managing the distribution grid.  PEC is taking on a challenge the whole country is facing.”

3. City of Riverside Public Utilities in Riverside, California

SunShot award amount: $ 3,192,302

This project involves a distributed energy resource management system that dispatches solar on feeders with more than 50% PV penetration. This technology is important to utilities that may not have financial resources to deploy full advanced distribution management systems.

Casa Blanca Library Solar Carport in Riverside, California

4-5. NREL in Golden, Colorado

SunShot award amount: $ 2,420,000

NREL, through its Golden labs and offices, is working on two SunShot funded projects. The first is a control architecture known as DEHC to enable efficient, reliable, resilient and secure operation of distribution systems with a high penetration solar energy. The architecture aims to be fully interoperable and include all the cybersecurity aspects that are necessary for reliable and secure system operation.

NREL Golden Campus, Laboratories, and Administrative Offices

SunShot award amount: $ 1,591,603

The second project’s key innovation will be its approach is to proactively managing many solar sites using only a few measurement points. The platform lets utilities dispatch distributed energy resources to achieve system-wide performance and reliability targets.

6. Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts

SunShot award amount: $ 633,792

This school us using a mixed set of measurements under different network configurations to handle any number of solar projects connected to the distribution system.


7. Quanta Technology in Raleigh, North Carolina

SunShot award amount: $ 1,500,000

Quanta Technology helps utilities with solar resource planning and management and is working on a project that will involve developing a new generation of PV inverters. Also, a new grid architecture would integrate PV monitoring and allow better control of solar resources.

8. Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico 

SunShot award amount: $ 2,500,000

Sandia’s research in solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) helps decrease total cost of solar energy systems by 75% by 2020 and make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity generation without subsidies. Sandia researchers address technical and market barriers to SunShot goals of high solar energy penetration by evaluating and improving the performance, reliability and cost effectiveness of solar systems, materials and balance of systems. Sandia also helps enable high levels of solar penetration on the electricity grid through extensive research in distribution systems integration.

9. Southern California Edison in Rosemead, California

SunShot award amount: $ 4,000,000

This project works to make communication between the utility and customer/resource provider more efficient, which will help accelerate interconnection.

10. University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California 

SunShot award amount: $ 2,000,000

Faculty and researchers at UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Lab are developing renewable and sustainable energy sources, advancing new technologies to help curb energy demand, understanding the implications for climate change and the environment, and formulating appropriate and timely policy responses.

For this project, the university will work on a framework to enable penetration levels of solar greater than 100% on the distribution grid.

11. University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida

SunShot award amount: $ 2,000,000

The university’s photovoltaics and distributed generation division of research seeks to provide the general public and professionals with accurate and current information about alternative energy use and production. In recent years, the photovoltaics division has expanded it’s scope to include distributed generation technologies such as micro-turbines.

For this SunShot project, the university is working on a scalable architecture and a set of algorithms for distributed control and optimization. The work will provide market-based signals for real and reactive power control of PV systems.

12. The University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California

SunShot award amount: $ 1,886,999

The university helps develop new forms of PV materials by bringing together materials scientists, chemists, electrical engineers and physicists.

This project develops a distributed grid control architecture that helps coordinate variable and distributed resources like solar and energy storage to help manage loads in real time.

13. University of Vermont in Berlington, Vermont 

SunShot award amount: $ 1,774,134

The university requires all undergraduates to complete a sustainability requirement as part of the general education requirements of the university.

This project develops a framework to ease the fluctuations and variability in solar generation. New estimation methods are leveraging data from smart meters and sensors to estimate the available flexibility in the distribution system, as well as identify the real-time operating conditions.


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