US DOE provides $15 million for solar and energy storage projects

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced another funding opportunity to support “low-cost, flexible and reliable solutions” for the integration of higher penetrations of solar PV on the grid through the use of energy storage, as part of its SunShot program.

“Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV” (SHINES) will provide up to US$15 million in funding for projects which use storage to meet both consumer and grid needs. This will include projects that utilize smart inverters, and are capable of working with smart buildings, smart appliances, and utility communications and control systems.

The continental United States does not have as high of penetrations of solar as Italy, Germany or Spain. All three of these nations met 5-7% of electricity demand with solar in 2013 and none have deployed widespread energy storage.

However, California has come close, with utility-scale PV and solar CSP alone meeting 2.4% of demand over the course of 2013. Hawaii has even higher penetrations of solar, and due to isolated island grids the challenges of integrating PV are greater.

DOE Solar Technologies Office Director Minh Le says that his agency is preparing for the future. “The goal of SunShot’s systems integration team is to anticipate and proactively address any potential challenges that could occur if or when hundreds of gigawatts of solar energy are interconnected to the grid,” Minh Le told PV Magazine.

“As the U.S. solar sector progresses towards such a high penetration scenario, it becomes increasingly possible that impacts on the electrical grid will occur due to the constrained availability and variability of solar energy,” added Le, who cited utility HECO’s restrictions on new PV in Hawaii. "It’s crucial that we prevent such closures from occurring, as they’re a threat to achieving the nation’s renewable energy deployment goals in the fight against climate change."

Individual SHINES awards will range from $500,000 – $5 million. The first deadline for concept papers will be on December 15th at 5 PM, and DOE expects to notify companies selected to receive funding on June 22nd, 2015.