January 14, 2016
News Release

PNNL Playing Key Role in Modernizing the Electric Grid

DOE Announces New Projects

PNNL Grid modernization

Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center Training

In the first industry use of the SEB, industry partner IncSys conducts training for power grid operators in one of the facility’s control rooms that mirror industry conditions.

Both the region and the nation's power grid will benefit from over 80 new research and development projects announced today by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The awards go to the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and thirteen other national laboratories to deliver new grid concepts, tools and technologies in a concerted manner.

Today's awards, up to $220 million, launch an integrated multi-year research effort that will guide the transformation of the nation's electricity grid to meet new demands and priorities. The projects were proposed by DOE's Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium, which is co-led by PNNL. The consortium of 14 national laboratories developed an integrated approach for identifying, planning and executing on the top priorities for grid modernization. The proposals included 95 external partners representing large and small utilities, vendors, state regulators and other key grid stakeholders from across the country.

"The consortium is tackling the profound and unprecedented scope, scale and pace of change facing our power grid in light of increasing use of clean energy sources, the need for new business and market structures, the opportunities presented by new sensors and high performance computing, and the increasingly active participation of consumers and devices at the fringe of the grid like distributed storage and generation," said Carl Imhoff, PNNL's Electricity Infrastructure Sector manager and co-lead for the GMLC.

PNNL is involved in 40 research projects including:

  • Grid Architecture — Create a new grid architecture or "big picture" of the grid and how each minute part affects the others. Developing this architecture with industry leaders will help inform decisions about proposed changes to the grid in this modernization effort to ensure no unintended consequences result.
  • Control Theory — Develop the mathematical underpinnings needed to provide effective and stable control mechanisms that will enable millions of distributed storage and generation resources, like batteries and solar power, to ensure grid reliability.
  • Standards for Grid Services — Develop protocols to test how these distributed smart devices can help balance supply and demand to maintain proper frequency and voltage required for grid stability.
  • Foundational Analysis — Develop a "dash-board" of performance metrics for industry and policy makers to better measure the technical progress of grid modernization in improving resiliency, security, flexibility, sustainability, and affordability.

As part of the initiative, DOE also funded ten pioneering regional partnerships with states, utilities or other entities that are on the front lines of key emerging grid modernization challenges.

PNNL is partnering with the State of Washington's Clean Energy Fund, the University of Washington and Washington State University to create a testbed for campus buildings and devices to serve as flexible assets for integrating renewable power and reducing energy consumption.

PNNL is also teaming on four other projects in Idaho, New York, Alaska, and the Midwest, including one with Idaho National Laboratory to improve the ability of Idaho Falls' distribution grid to automatically and quickly reconfigure in the event of an outage.

"The global smart grid market is expected to surpass $400 billion worldwide within the next 5 years; there are huge economic opportunities for this U.S. technology," said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA and ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "This award of up to $220 million to the Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium, co-led by PNNL, is essential in re-engineering the electric grid to meet new challenges and opportunities we couldn't have envisioned in the 20th Century."

"Investing in our power grid will help us meet the demands of the 21st century economy, lower power prices, and bring renewable energy to more homes and businesses," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA. "PNNL has been on the cutting edge of grid science and research while tackling our nation's most complex and urgent challenges, so I look forward to seeing how the grid modernization funding announced today will help transform technologies, approaches, and collaboration both in our region and across the country."

PNNL recently completed the nation's largest smart grid demonstration that included 11 utilities in five Northwest states. PNNL's expected grid modernization awards of approximately $38 million over three years will enable researchers to build on that effort.

"These energy research and development awards are a great opportunity for PNNL to extend its legacy of demonstrating the important role of science in grid solutions and modernization, said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-WA. "I look forward to seeing how the new Systems Engineering Building at PNNL supports the development of a smarter electric grid and more resilient energy systems to benefit Central Washington and the country as a whole."

Funding for these projects comes from DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability and the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.

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About PNNL

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on its distinguishing strengths in chemistry, Earth sciences, biology and data science to advance scientific knowledge and address challenges in sustainable energy and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science. For more information on PNNL, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Published: January 14, 2016