US: DOE grants $25m to aid grid integration of solar energy

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced it is to grant $25 million in funding to assist the development of between 10 to 15 software and hardware solutions designed to integrate more solar energy on to the grid.

The funding forms part of the extended Enabling Extreme Real-Time Integration of Solar Energy (ENERGISE) program, which is part of the DOE’s work on assisting the nationwide Grid Modernization Initiative, where the primary aim is to increase the amount of distributed and renewable energy on the U.S power grid.

The ENERGISE program specifically aims to utilize and develop new software and hardware platforms that are adept at integrating intermittent distributed power source, such as solar power. The DOE funding will help software developers, solar companies and utilities work more closely together to smooth grid integration of solar energy, with a particular focus on data-driven monitoring and control.

"Our ongoing grid modernization work will help accelerate the widespread adoption of the clean energy resources that will define our low-carbon future," said DOE science and energy undersecretary Lynn Orr. "This funding will help that mission by supporting industry partners working to integrate, store, and deploy solar energy throughout our electric grid."

Orr added that the ultimate aim of the ENERGISE program is to drive down solar costs and encourage more U.S. homeowners and businesses to install rooftop PV systems.

The 10-15 solutions already earmarked for funding are to be field-tested by utilities eager to ascertain their value in real-world operating conditions. Projects associated with this funding will be overseen by the DOE’s SunShot Initiative.

In January the DOE announced a $220 million R&D funding package steered towards grid modernization research efforts over the next three years. Speaking at the time, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said: "Modernizing the U.S. electrical grid is essential to reducing carbon emissions, creating safeguards against attacks on our infrastructure, and keeping the lights on."

Analysts expect the U.S. solar sector to grow by a further 15 GW this year, with distributed solar providing an ever-larger share of that total thanks to the success of the solar leasing model pioneered by companies such as SolarCity, Sunrun and Vivint Solar.