US: DOE announces USD$8.5 million investment to advance solar energy grid integration systems

It said the selections were announced as part of the deaprtment’s ongoing work to improve the nation’s electrical grid reliability as solar energy technologies reach cost-competitiveness with conventional sources of electricity and increasing amounts of photovoltaic (PV) electricity flow into the nation’s electrical grid.

"Continuing to support solar and grid technologies is necessary for America to maintain its competitive edge in the clean energy industries," said Chu. "These types of projects will help ensure that our efforts to advance renewable energy and support the modernization of our electrical grid are coordinated and integrated, helping to provide Americans with reliable, clean energy at lower costs."

Under the SEGIS Stage III selections, the Florida Solar Energy Center of the University of Central Florida received USD$660,329. According to DOE, the center is partnering with Satcon Technology Corporation, Sentech, Inc., SunEdison, Cooper Power Systems EAS, Northern Plains Power Technologies and Lakeland Electric Utilities.

This Stage III project will reportedly focus on the implementation of a larger "shared" inverter serving multiple residential or commercial PV systems. The demonstration will feature a suite of new functionalities such as "Smart Grid" power controls, continued operation in the events of voltage and frequency disturbances, and improved safety of PV systems.

Petra Solar South was additionally awarded USD$2,729,712. The company is said to be partnering with the University of Central Florida, Public Service Electric & Gas, Pepco Holdings, and BP Solar. This project will reportedly address utility-grid interactivity, system reliability, and safety through low cost, easy-to-install, modular inverters. The Stage III work is expected to expand the micro-inverter system concept to higher voltage operations to reduce costs and expand utility-friendly functionalities.

Furthermore, Princeton Power has received USD$2,729,897. It will partner with First Energy Corp., Center for Power Electronics Systems, International Battery, Inc., Tectonic Corp., and Process Automation Corp., according to DOE. This project will reportedly address finishing details to complete a design for a 100-kilowatt "Demand Response Inverter" based on Princeton’s circuit designs and the use of new state-of-the-art components. Demonstration installations with utility collaborations are planned during Stage III and will be announced once details are available.

Finally, PVPowered was awarded USD$2,408,276. DOE has said the company is partnering with Portland General Electric, Northern Plains Power Technologies, and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. This project is expected to focus on several key developments in Stage III, including next-generation controls and advanced communications technologies that enable distributed PV systems to communicate with power utilities.

These innovations will allow utilities to manage networks of distributed power sources, said DOE, in addition to reducing PV systems costs, and removing barriers to high levels of PV grid penetration. Stage III demonstration installations are being planned and will be announced when details are available.

Initiated in 2008, the SEGIS program is a partnership that includes DOE, Sandia National Laboratories, industry, utilities and universities. Under the program, DOE said the projects are emphasizing complete system development for solar technologies, for instance, how to move designs of intelligent system controls towards commercialization and how best to integrate expanded solar resources onto the grid while maintaining or improving power quality and reliability.

It added that the awards are follow-on selections from the first two stages of the SEGIS program. Projects were reportedly selected based on the highest likelihood of commercialization of reliable products that will best enable and accelerate the integration of PV technologies into an intelligent electrical grid.