DOE Awards Co-op Microgrid R&D

NRECA and electric cooperatives involved in cutting-edge R&D on grid resiliency are getting a lift from the Department of Energy.

Amy Bryan (right), director of  residential marketing at Jackson EMC,  checks out the home of co-op employee Martha Intriago, who participated in a smart water heater pilot project. (Photo By: Jackson EMC)

Amy Bryan (right), director of residential marketing at Jackson EMC, checks out the home of co-op employee Martha Intriago, who participated in a smart water heater pilot project. (Photo By: Jackson EMC)

DOE is awarding millions of dollars in grants for projects that will help utilities recover quickly after weather and other challenges.

The grants, announced Sept. 15, are for significant three-year R&D projects where national laboratories are partnering with NRECA, co-ops and others in the power sector to develop microgrids to strengthen power delivery.

Two Alaskan co-ops, Anchorage-based Alaska Village Electric Cooperative and Cordova Electric Cooperative in Cordova, are part of a project that received a $6.2 million award. The project, known as RADIANCE, will test multiple networked microgrids and energy storage.

A project involving NRECA and Vermont Electric Cooperative in Johnson received $6 million to test state-of-the-art artificial intelligence to anticipate grid events and recover from outages more rapidly.

NRECA and Jackson EMC in Jefferson, Georgia, are working on research to integrate residential loads into distribution management. DOE awarded that project $6 million.

DOE's Grid Modernization Initiative is slated to give $32 million over three years to its lab consortium on R&D projects aimed at integrating low-emission distributed energy resources as well as boosting the resiliency of distribution energy systems.

"As round-the-clock efforts continue to help communities recover from the devastation of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the need to continue strengthening and improving our electricity delivery system to withstand and recover from disruptions has become even more compelling," said Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she was pleased DOE recognized the "ingenuity of Alaskan innovators" participating in the grid resiliency projects.

"We have significant energy challenges in many of our remote communities, but we are also an incubator of microgrid and hybrid-energy-system solutions that will meet the growing challenges of grid reliability and resilience," said Murkowski.

The committee held a field hearing in Cordova in June where Meera Kohler, CEO of AVEC and NRECA Alaska director, and Clay Koplin, CEO of Cordova EC, discussed their extensive experience with microgrids. AVEC serves 58 small Alaskan communities with 50 microgrids. 

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