Vermont Business Magazine An innovative project developed at the University of Vermont has received a $1.8 million award from the US Department of Energy SunShot Initiative for research aimed at improving the electric grid’s ability to accommodate power generated from renewable energy sources. The award, one of only 13 awarded nationally, is part of SunShot’s newest program called Enabling Extreme Real-time Grid Integration of Solar Energy, or ENERGISE. As more roof-top solar comes onto the grid, electric utilities have to manage an increasingly variable and uncontrollable power supply, which creates challenges for maintaining reliable, resilient, and economic grid operations.
The UVM-led project seeks to overcome these challenges by adapting advanced real-time control and optimization concepts from high-voltage power systems to low-voltage three-phase distribution grid operations. This allows the team to develop state-of-the-science analytical and software tools necessary to ensure reliable and resilient distribution system operations under extreme penetration of solar PV generation. The team will also study the role and capability of novel energy market formulations and validate the resulting technology in multiple phases with industry partners.
Mads Almassalkhi, principle investigator and assistant professor in electrical and biomedical engineering (EBE) in UVM’s College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, is partnering with EBE colleagues Hamid Ossareh, Pavan Racherla, and Paul Hines at UVM and professors Dennice Gayme and Enrique Mallada at John Hopkins University. In addition, the project will leverage expertise from Dr. Soumya Kundu’s team at Pacific Northwestern National Lab, the National Institute of Science and Technology, and Consolidated Edison New York (Orange & Rockland Utility) to develop and validate the technology as well as a strategy that will help distribution utilities manage a much larger contribution from renewable sources.
“As more and more solar PV is installed, the distribution grid operator needs decision support tools that can respond to real-time conditions and predict how to best use the available grid resources, such as batteries, smart inverters, and thermal loads, to improve reliability and resilience,” says Almassalkhi. Ossareh, who recently joined UVM from Ford Research, adds that “being able to validate and test our algorithms with industrial partners, such as Con Edison’s Orange & Rockland Utility in New York, is fantastic and provides a massive opportunity to bridge the gap between academic research and practice.” The Department of Electrical and Biomedical Engineering currently leads several energy projects from federal and industry sponsors and is cementing UVM’s, as well as Vermont’s, role in a sustainable, resilient, and independent energy future.
The ultimate goal of ENERGISE projects is to transition from static, manual, and cumbersome, experience-based, offline, non-scalable, and costly approaches to dynamic, automated and streamlined, data-driven, online, highly-scalable, and cost-effective ones that are compatible with a broad set of grid modernization frameworks and solutions. The ENERGISE projects represent transformative and highly scalable technologies that plug into distribution system planning and real-time operation solutions for advanced grid architectures to enable extremely high penetration solar generation in a cost-effective, secure, and reliable manner. Other awardees include University of California – Berkeley, University of Southern California, Northeastern University, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratory, and Southern California Edison.
About the SunShot Initiative
The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a national effort to drive down the cost of solar electricity and support solar adoption. SunShot aims to make solar energy a low cost electricity source for all Americans through research and development efforts in collaboration with public and private partners. Learn more at energy.gov/sunshot.