The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) was awarded a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to improve emergency electric grid resilience. The work will investigate how to systematically and effectively manage grid-connected distributed energy resources (DER) to support critical loads during a crisis. EPRI will lead the research involving a diverse group of utilities, universities, and energy technology developers.
The solution being developed, called the “Solar Critical Infrastructure Energization System,” could provide grid operators facing system disruptions with the ability to call on diverse available generation resources to keep critical infrastructure online throughout a crisis.
“During normal operations, the grid delivers electricity from a generator to end users at a standard voltage and frequency,” said EPRI Technical Executive Arindam Maitra, and the project’s principal researcher. “We are working to use existing grid infrastructure with available DER to maintain electrical service to critical infrastructure during an emergency. This includes improving the technical capabilities and flexibility of smart inverters, DER and other grid infrastructure to meet this crucial need.”
Much in the way that highways can be used as one-way evacuation routes during an emergency, this project would enable DER to channel output through isolated energy pathways to serve specified critical systems or infrastructure.
The DOE awarded the grant to EPRI and its collaborators through its Advanced Systems Integration for Solar Technologies (ASSIST) program, which seeks to advance situational awareness and resilient solutions for solar energy systems, especially at critical infrastructure sites, to increase resilience to cyber and physical threats, and strengthen grid/distributed solar integration.
Currently, solar PV generation does not serve in a “grid-forming capacity,” meaning it does not support the system’s voltage and frequency stability. In an AC electric power system, a generator cannot provide power onto the grid unless it is running at the same frequency as the network. These variables must be controlled each time a generator is connected to a grid. This research will attempt to identify how to develop such control capabilities for DER, and particularly for solar PV, enabling it to support system recovery without other sources of generation.=
The EPRI-led team includes Austin Energy, Duke Energy, The University of Texas Austin, Schneider, Solectria, Younicos, ERCOT, Austin Emergency Control Center and Pecan Street.
News item from EPRI