Walking the Talk After Paris
Some lauded the recent Paris Climate Change Conference was an historic victory, but naysayers were quick to point out that the resolutions made at the conference were strictly voluntary, with no enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure compliance among participating nations.
That assertion is correct. Fortunately, it looks as though the U.S. Department of Energy is taking the commitment seriously. In January, DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz announced that the department would fund six new energy storage projects, to the tune of $18 million.
Solar Across America
When completed, these projects will demonstrate the sort of integrated, scalable, and cost-effective energy solutions needed to make solar energy a viable large-scale solution to the energy crisis.
Energy storage has long been a stumbling block for solar energy’s widespread adoption. When the sun goes down, photovoltaic conversion ceases, necessitating a backup energy source for most solar installations. Solar storage solutions have been available, but have historically been cumbersome, expensive, and maintenance-intensive.
As part of the DOE’s Sunshot Initiative, storage and grid modernization solutions will be developed. These new infrastructure enhancements are expected to provide a marked increase in the amount of solar-generated energy that can be supplied around the clock.
Said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson, “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 coming years, The Energy Department is leading the way in the development and deployment of affordable, reliable grid integration technologies, including energy storage, intelligent inverters, load management and innovative PV solutions, that can boost the resiliency of our nation’s electric grid while allowing us to deploy greater amounts of solar and other renewables.”
Six Big Bets on Solar Power
The six new projects will incorporate networked inverters, and will work in tandem with public utility communications and control systems. Each of the projects will be conducted by a utility company or include a utility as a main stakeholder.
As per the Energy.gov website:
Texas’ Austin Energy will receive $4.3 million to create a distributed energy resource management platform that is adaptable to any region and market structure, aiming to establish a template that can help to maximize the penetration of distributed solar PV across Texas.
In Pittsburgh, PA, Carnegie Mellon University will receive $1 million to develop and demonstrate a distributed, agent-based control system to integrate smart inverters, energy storage, and commercial off-the-shelf home automation controllers and smart thermostats.
Commonwealth Edison Company of Chicago will receive $4 million to utilize smart inverters for solar PV and battery storage systems, working synergistically with other components within a microgrid community.
The Knoxville, Tennessee-based Electric Power Research Institute will receive $3.1 million to work with five utilities to design, develop, and demonstrate technology for end-to-end grid integration of energy storage and load management with PV generation.
Boston, Massachusetts’ Fraunhofer USA Center for Sustainable Energy Systems will receive $3.5 million to develop and demonstrate a scalable, integrated PV, storage, and facility load management solution through the SunDial Global Scheduler system.
The Hawaiian Electric Company of Honolulu will receive $2.4 million to show the system-level benefits of enhanced utility visibility and control of the distribution system by enabling the proliferation of distributed renewable energy technologies.
A Step in the Right Direction
These initiatives will help the U.S. reach the energy affordability goals included in the Obama-backed Sunshot Initiative, but they’ll also help the Department of Energy reach its Grid Modernization standards.
In an energy policy landscape typically fraught with obstructionism, some see major utility participation in these renewable energy initiatives as an encouraging sign.
[Photo via: Energy.gov]