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DOE Announces $43 Million To Speed Up The Energy Transition Across The US

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The US Department of Energy recently announced 23 new projects that will focus on helping communities transition to clean energy, improving grid reliability and security, and increasing resilience to extreme weather and other disasters. The 20 research projects will receiving funding will focus specifically on disaster preparedness, while the 3 remaining development projects aim to create tools that can evaluate local energy resources for potential benefits. As they work to install clean energy and strengthen grid infrastructure in communities across the country, researchers will develop and share planning methodologies, tools, technologies, and best practices that can be replicated.

“Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to giving local communities the tools to understand and make informed decisions about their own energy supply and needs,” said US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “These critical projects will help deliver reliable, affordable energy to every pocket of America — strengthening the safety and resiliency of communities across the nation and improving the quality of life for Americans everywhere.”

As our climate changes, communities all over the country have been facing more power disruptions from extreme weather events. According to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, in 2022 there were 15 climate disasters which each caused losses of over $1 billion dollars. In total, these events cost approximately $30 billion and had a big economic impact on the areas affected. Power outages can be really damaging, shutting down important services like water, energy, communications, transportation, and other types of infrastructure.

The Renewables Advancing Community Energy Resilience (RACER) program aspires to enable towns to use solar-powered and solar+storage solutions so that power outages caused by extreme weather or other circumstances can be prevented. If the electricity does end up going out, these 20 selected projects will have shown methods of innovative community energy planning that can rapidly restore power. These projects are located in over 30 different communities, from California all the way to Puerto Rico. Partners include everyone from local and state governments, national labs, universities, right down to nonprofit organizations.

Some Of The Projects That Will Receive Funding

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley, CA) will receive $1 million to develop a framework for protecting communities and increasing heat resilience among vulnerable populations in moderate climates.

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (Tallahassee, FL) will develop a solar-plus-storage energy system that can be used to increase the resilience of local vulnerable communities during pre-disaster preparedness and post-disaster restoration. This project is being funded with an award amount of $3 million.

With a $900,000 grant from the Department of Energy, Navajo Technical University (located in Crownpoint, New Mexico) will develop and create an easy-to-use tool that provides recommendations for energy options based on how it will positively impact the community as a whole.

Wayne State University (Detroit, MI) will receive $1M to engage community members in Detroit and Pittsburgh. The engagement is for developing an open-source, open-access, community-centered distributed energy resource planning tool. This tool is for resilience enhancement of water resources in urban areas.

GE Research will receive 3 million dollars to develop restored power system technologies that can rapidly and automatically be put into action during extreme weather events. These systems will use reliable sensors as well as solar energy plus storage distributed among the community.

The Energyshed funding program intends to create data-driven tools to help communities plan their energy future through a better understanding of their current and future energy supply and demand. With $10M in funding, these three projects will develop tools to empower communities evaluate the impacts and benefits of locally generated energy.

The three projects are:

  • The University of Vermont (Burlington, VT) plans to use data from three rural areas of Vermont in order to identify energy demand, supply, and other community needs. With this information, they will develop a tool for local leaders that will help them make more efficient decisions about transitioning their energy sources to renewable generation.
  • Launch Alaska will work with existing tools to cooperation between Anchorage, AK communities, regional Native corporations, and others in order to gain support for three priority large scale local energy projects. The experience will allow for an increase in renewable energy access as well as address high energy costs.
  • The Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA) plans to evaluate the social and economic equity impacts of different future energy scenarios within Atlanta by developing modeling tools that combine technical energy data with input from a variety of communities.

The Goals Of All These Projects

By selecting a wide range of awardees for this research, DOE aims to enable communities across the country to learn from the findings and develop a tailored approach to meet their own energy needs. These programs support President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative which promises that the clean energy economy will benefit all Americans — especially those in underserved areas or places vulnerable frequently experiencing power outages caused by extreme weather events.

Want to learn more? Check out the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, its research in energysheds, and how DOE systems integration research helps create an affordable, reliable, and resilient clean energy grid.

Why This Matters

Management researcher Peter Drucker reportedly said, “That which gets measured gets improved.”

While it’s easy to get lost in numbers, especially when you have too many numbers, what makes these programs look promising is that they put the numbers in local contexts where they can be more than just numbers on paper that anybody can bend or break. A great example is the project in the Navajo Nation, which helps interpret and measure key metrics in such a way as to fit the local culture and its more community-oriented way of looking at problems. At the same time, another project in Florida helps measure and improve thing in a way that would work there.

This can help communities actually solve problems instead of just finding ways to achieve better numbers. We have to remember the old Hindu story, where a man drowns in a river after insisting that it only had an average depth of a few inches. Instead of looking at the whole country with a “one size fits all” attitude, the DOE seems to be aiming to look at the specific parts of the proverbial river to keep communities from drowning in information instead of benefiting from it.

Featured image provided by the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.


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