The Move Toward a DER Electric Grid Continues

Solar, Wind and power lines

As baseload generation sources for electric utilities continue to shift from coal and nuclear to DER, more research is taking place in the latter area to make sure that it can provide the necessarily reliability going forward.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), grid services, which largely involve maintaining voltage and frequency stability, are critical to maintaining grid reliability. And, because new wind and solar generation are interfaced with the grid through power electronic inverters, they have different characteristics and dynamics than traditional sources of generation that currently supply these services.

Being able to demonstrate that a grid that is fully powered by inverter-based resources is as reliable or more reliable at providing these services is a key barrier to the clean energy transition.

As a result, last week, DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) and its Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) announced the “Solar and Wind Grid Services and Reliability Demonstration” funding opportunity, which will award $26 million in funding for projects that demonstrate the reliable operation of a power system that has up to 100 percent of its power contribution coming from solar, wind, and battery storage resources. Projects in this funding opportunity will support the development of controls and methods for inverter-based resources, such as solar and wind, to provide the same grid services as traditional generation.

Who is eligible to apply for the funding? Utilities, laboratories, equipment manufacturers, software vendors, engineering firms, and universities (including community colleges) are encouraged to apply for these funds, according to the DOE.

These organizations can apply as individual organizations (with team members from within their own organization) or work in partnership with teams from other organizations, and, according to the DOE, “teams that include multiple partners are preferred over applications that include a single organization.”

To facilitate the formation of such multiple-partner teams, SETO and WETO are providing a forum in which interested parties can add themselves to a Teaming Partner List, which will allow organizations that may wish to apply for funding, but not as the prime applicant, to express their interest in finding potential partners.

There are two major topic areas available for funding.

1 – The first is titled “Wind and Solar Grid Services Design, Implementation, and Demonstration,” which will involve three to five projects, with funding opportunities of between $3 million and $6 million each. Projects in this topic area will combine at least 10 megawatts of solar, wind, and storage to conduct long-duration demonstrations at existing large-scale wind and solar generation facilities connected to bulk power systems, to show their capability of providing grid services at scale. These projects will need to develop centralized and/or autonomous local controls that demonstrate the feasibility of these facilities to reliably respond to operational commands and schedules in the existing bulk power grid.

2 – The second is titled “Protection of Bulk Power Systems with High Contribution from Inverter-Based Resources,” which will involve three to four projects, with funding opportunities of between $2 million and $3 million each. Projects in this topic area will conduct large-scale studies of transmission protection systems to determine how they respond to faults in situations where there are large amounts of inverter-based resources. Projects of this type will be expected to advance protection modeling and simulation capabilities, and to develop technologies and strategies designed to maintain transmission grid reliability at any level of inverter-based generation.

In order to get help applicants get started, SETO will host an informational webinar for all interested parties on August 17.

The submission deadline for concept papers is September 1. The submission deadline for full applications is November 10. The expected timeframe for selection notification is February 2023, and the expected timeframe for award negotiations is between February and June 2023.



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