U.S. Department of Energy Awards $45 Million to Advance Solar Manufacturing & Grid Technologies

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Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $45 million for projects that will help seamlessly integrate clean energy sources onto the grid, supporting the Biden Administration’s goal of a decarbonized power sector by 2035. As solar and other renewable energy are rapidly deployed throughout the country, these projects are developing new technologies and capabilities to bolster the resilience of the U.S. electric grid. The funding, which also creates a new $25 million consortium, will advance the domestic manufacturing of solar energy and electric grid technologies.

“To flip the switch on climate change, we need a grid that’s chock full of renewable energy that’s also cheap and accessible,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The universities, small businesses, and national lab behind these projects are building the critical components of America’s future grid, making it more resilient on our way to a 100% clean power system.”

Renewable energy is America’s largest source of new electricity generation, with hundreds of gigawatts of solar and wind expected to come online in the next 15 years. Maintaining a reliable, high-renewable grid requires technologies and industry standards that can seamlessly coordinate renewable resources and restart the grid if it goes down. When the power goes out today, a grid operator must first turn on a spinning turbine — often times from a coal or gas-fired power plant — that sends a signal for other power sources to match. Grid-forming inverters will allow renewable sources to create that signal, eliminating the need for a turbine.

The selected projects will:

  • Create a public-private consortium on grid integration technology (Award amount: $25 million) — The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of Washington, and the Electric Power Research Institute will co-lead an industry-wide consortium to advance research on grid-forming inverters — an emerging technology that allows solar and other inverter-based energy sources to restart the grid without a spinning turbine, typically a oil or coal-fired power plant. This consortium will include national labs, universities and minority-serving institutions, equipment manufacturers, utilities, and bulk power system operators.
  • Provide utilities better data about rooftop solar power generation (Award amount: $6 million) — Two projects led by GridBright, Inc. (Alamo, California) and the University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) will develop sensor hardware and system designs that will help utilities understand how much renewable energy is being generated by residential and commercial solar photovoltaics (PV), strengthening reliability of the electricity grid.
  • Advance the commercialization of American-made solar innovations (Award amount: $14 million) — Nine solar hardware and manufacturing projects will receive DOE funding to accelerate the commercialization of innovative technologies that can lower the cost of solar technologies and help to integrate solar electricity into the nation’s energy grid. Among the projects include a new solar heat system to dry out sewage and convert it to fertilizer, which would help decarbonize the agricultural, wastewater, and industrial sectors and  a project to develop a low-cost device to help prevent solar system electrical fires.

“Investments in clean and renewable energy infrastructure are a big reason why Washington state continues to lead in innovation and technological development. I am so glad to see this important funding go towards projects that will promote energy security, meet domestic demands, and create good-paying manufacturing jobs. This is an important step towards ensuring Washington state leads in solar energy and grid reliability,” said U.S. Senator Patty Murray (WA).

“Adding more renewable energy to the grid is key to fighting climate change, but it has its challenges. I am pleased that the Department of Energy is investing in researching and demonstrating innovative technologies that will help communities deploy more solar energy and create a more reliable grid. These awards are a testament to all of the innovative work being done by universities and companies all over the Pittsburgh area. We have been leaders in innovation for centuries and as that tradition continues, I will work to ensure that DOE and our institutions have the resources they need to keep innovating,” said U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle (PA-18).

“The Department of Energy’s investment in innovative local projects is the spark Northwest Washington needs to be a leader in solar manufacturing. I will continue to champion bold, FDR-like investment in the development of clean technologies to create well-paying jobs, bolster grid resiliency and competitiveness, and fight climate change,” said U.S. Congressman Rick Larsen (WA-2).

“Congratulations to Golden’s own Alliance for Sustainable Energy (NREL). The Alliance is bringing us closer to a cleaner future through its work in advancing energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives and improving grid reliability for the nation,” said U.S. Congressman Ed Perlmutter (CO-07).

“Investing in clean energy technologies like solar not only helps us combat climate change, it strengthens our energy and manufacturing sectors, creating good jobs while building the economy of the future. I’m so thrilled that Louisville’s own Bert Thin Films is leading the way in this industry, working to reduce costs and expand access to an inexhaustible clean energy source. I congratulate Thad and Ruvini on earning this highly sought-after Department of Energy funding to continue their great work here in Louisville,” said U.S. Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3).

“Congratulations to Gridbright for being awarded this funding to advance their solar manufacturing and grid reliability projects. These initiatives are crucial for meeting the needs of the 21st century here in Contra Costa and across the country,” said U.S. Congressman Mark Desaulnier (CA-11).

WATCH: ‘What is Grid Integration’

The projects are part of DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2021 Systems Integration and Hardware Incubator funding program of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). EERE’s mission is to accelerate the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of technologies and solutions to equitably transition America to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050. The projects and work supported through EERE aim to ensure the clean energy economy benefits all Americans, creating good paying jobs for the American people — especially workers and communities impacted by the energy transition and those historically underserved by the energy system and overburdened by pollution.

Learn more about these projects, the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office’s research priorities in manufacturing and competitiveness and systems integration, and EERE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office.

Article courtesy of Energy.gov

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