Electrical engineering partnership awarded millions by DOE to modernize U.S. electric grid

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University is part of a partnership that has received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) aimed at optimizing the nation's electric grid.ABB Inc. (Raleigh, N.C.) leads the partnership, which also includes Xcel Energy of Denver. The collaboration is among five groups chosen to receive funding.Dr. Mladen Kezunovic, the Eugene E. Webb Professor in the electrical engineering department, is the Co-PI and lead for Texas A&M's part of the project.U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced an investment from the DOE of more than $19 million for five projects which will apply technologies, tools and techniques that are capable of transforming the electric grid into a system that is cleaner and more efficient, reliable, resilient and responsive. The projects also support the administration's goal of building the infrastructure necessary to bring clean, low-cost energy sources to American homes and businesses."These innovative projects will greatly enhance the reliability, efficiency, and resource diversity of the nation's electric grid," Chu said. "Developing smart grid technologies will give consumers choice and promote energy savings, increase energy efficiency, and foster the growth of renewable energy resources."Smart grid technologies can help modernize the nation's electric grid by employing remote control and automation, two-way communications, and information technology to better inform consumers and utilities. These technologies are beginning to be used on electricity networks, from power plants and wind farms to the electricity consumers in homes and businesses receive. In addition to enabling the integration of an increasing amount of new renewable energy sources into the electric grid, smart grid technologies can potentially reduce energy costs by providing consumers with the information they need to better manage their energy use.DOE is working with industry, universities, national laboratories and other groups to conduct research, development and demonstration projects that lead to commercially available smart grid technologies. The current selections will demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of smart grid technologies in three research areas: integrated modeling and analysis tools to automate distribution; advanced sensing, monitoring, and control technologies to enhance asset use and grid reliability; and voltage regulation for high penetration of renewable generation.The projects include: • ABB Inc. will research, develop, and demonstrate a real-time monitoring, control and health-management system to improve grid reliability and efficiency. It will utilize digital data from sensors and substation intelligent electronic devices to continuously monitor system performance. Using real-time information, utility control center operators will be able to address outages, power quality issues and other anomalies to reduce the frequency and duration of outages. A demonstration will be conducted on Xcel Energy's distribution system in Denver. DOE funding: $2,993,006; Total Project Value: $4,123,923. Project Team Members: Xcel Energy, Denver; Texas A&M University• Areva T&D Inc. (Redmond, Wash.) is designing and testing an innovative platform for integrating distributed energy resources into the electric grid. Distributed energy resources are smaller-scale energy sources designed to provide electricity in locations close to consumers, such as home solar panels, energy storage and electric vehicle charging. The project will develop models and analytical tools for seamlessly integrating distributed energy resources with smart meters, demand response, and advanced sensors, with a demonstration planned for a distribution circuit serving a suburb of Charlotte, N.C. DOE funding: $6,000,000; Total Project Value: $10,459,495. Project Team Members: Duke Energy Co. in Charlotte, N.C.; University of Washington in Seattle; University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn.; Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash..• Boeing Company (Saint Louis) will demonstrate a smart, highly automated, secure, and self-healing electric distribution management system that will allow for integration of a greater amount of customer-owned energy resources and automation into the distribution system, increasing the value of energy resources to both end-use customers and utilities. A demonstration will be conducted on ComEd's distribution system in the greater Chicago area. DOE funding: $6,000,000; Total Project Value: $10,429,157. Project Team members: Spirae Inc. of Fort Collins, Colo.; Viridity Energy Inc. in Conshohocken, Penn.; EDSA Micro Corp. in San Diego and Raleigh, N.C.; Commonwealth Edison Co. in Chicago.• Varentec Inc. (North Andover, Mass.) will conduct research and development on a wide range of next-generation power electronics devices to better integrate renewable resources. Using an innovative circuit design with an integrated battery energy storage system, the project's goal is to deliver a fast response to rapid voltage changes arising from grid-connected renewable resources. The prototype and full-scale solution will be tested at North Carolina State University's FREEDM System Center. DOE funding: $2,287,502; Total Project Value: $2,859,363. Project Team Members: North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C.; Cree Inc. in Durham, N.C.; S&C Electric Co. in Franklin, Wis.; Consolidated Edison Co. in New York City.• On-Ramp Wireless Inc. (San Diego) will develop and demonstrate a wireless grid sensor and faulted circuit indicator capable of monitoring underground and other hard-to-reach distribution circuit locations. The goal for this project is to develop and demonstrate tools that will enhance the reliability of distribution grids, improve system performance and maintenance, and enable future remote monitoring applications. A demonstration will be conducted on San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison distribution systems. DOE funding: $2,135,492; Total Project Value: $2,753,826. Project Team Members: Schweitzer Engineering Labs in Lake Zurich, Ill., and Pullman, Wash.; San Diego Gas & Electric in San Diego; Southern California Edison in Rosemead, Calif. http://www.ece.tamu.edu/NewsAndEvents/Newsletter/Vol11No2/news_electricgrid.php