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FERC, DOE Seek Better Grid Integration of Wind and Solar Energy

Today, the nations regulatory commission, FERC, proposed a reform to its rules that would help integrate renewable energy into the nation's energy mix.

According to a press release issued by the agency, the proposal would reform the Open Access Transmission Tariffs (OATT) and the Large Generator Interconnection Agreements.  Specifically, it would require pubic utilities to allow renewable energy providers to schedule shipments of the energy they produce in 15-minute intervals.  As the rule stands now, energy generators schedule electricity shipments by the hour.

“Most of the new power plants for which developers are seeking access to the grid are variable resources such as wind and solar generators,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said.

“This proposal will help the Commission to cost-effectively integrate these and other variable generators into the grid in a way that helps maintain reliability and operational stability.”

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) commended FERC on the proposal. “The establishment of a cost-effective and equitable means of integrating these renewable resources into the grid is an absolutely essential prerequisite to the transition to a clean energy economy,” said Rhone Resch, President and CEO of SEIA.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) was also pleased with the FERC proposal.  "FERC’s proposed rule could dramatically improve power system reliability, efficiency, and renewable energy integration. Out of all the national attention to smart grids, storage, and other sexy grid-related topics, FERC gets the prize for identifying the single, most important, grid operations change: intra-hour scheduling," said Rob Gramlich, Sr. Vice President for Public Policy at AWEA.

DOE Awards $19 Million For Transmission R&D

In related news, the Department of Energy announced 5 recipients of an investment from the DOE of more than $19 million.  The 5 projects are all aimed at optimizing the nation's electric grid.

Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu said that the projects “also support the Administration's goal of building the infrastructure necessary to bring clean, low-cost energy sources to American homes and businesses.”

Straight from the DOE press release, the projects selected include:

* Areva T&D, Inc. (Redmond, WA) is designing and testing an innovative platform for integrating distributed energy resources into the electric grid. Distributed energy resources are smaller-scale energy sources designed to provide electricity in locations close to consumers, such as home solar panels, energy storage and electric vehicle charging. The project will develop models and analytical tools for seamlessly integrating distributed energy resources with smart meters, demand response, and advanced sensors, with a demonstration planned for a distribution circuit serving a suburb of Charlotte, NC. DOE funding: $6,000,000; Total Project Value: $10,459,495.

Project Team Members: Duke Energy Co., Charlotte NC; University of Washington, Seattle WA; University of Connecticut, Storrs CT; Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland WA.

* Boeing Company (Saint Louis, Missouri) will demonstrate a smart, highly-automated, secure, and self-healing electric distribution management system that will allow for integration of a greater amount of customer-owned energy resources and automation into the distribution system, increasing the value of energy resources to both end-use customers and utilities. A demonstration will be conducted on ComEd's distribution system in the greater Chicago area. DOE funding: $6,000,000; Total Project Value: $10,429,157.

Project Team members: Spirae, Inc, Fort Collins, CO; Viridity Energy Inc., Conshohocken, PA; EDSA Micro Corp., San Diego CA and Raleigh NC; Commonwealth Edison Company, Chicago, IL.

* ABB Inc. (Raleigh, North Carolina) will research, develop, and demonstrate a real-time monitoring, control, and health management system to improve grid reliability and efficiency. It will utilize digital data from sensors and substation Intelligent Electronic Devices to continuously monitor system performance. Using real-time information, utility control center operators will be able to address outages, power quality issues and other anomalies to reduce the frequency and duration of outages. A demonstration will be conducted on Xcel Energy's distribution system in Denver, Colorado. DOE funding: $2,993,006; Total Project Value: $4,123,923.

Project Team Members: Xcel Energy, Denver CO; Texas A&M, College Station, TX

* Varentec, Inc. (North Andover, Massachusetts) will conduct research and development on a wide range of next-generation power electronics devices to better integrate renewable resources. Using an innovative circuit design with an integrated battery energy storage system, the project's goal is to deliver a fast response to rapid voltage changes arising from grid-connected renewable resources. The prototype and full-scale solution will be tested at North Carolina State University's FREEDM System Center. DOE funding: $2,287,502; Total Project Value: $2,859,363.

Project Team Members: North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC; Cree Inc., Durham, NC; S&C Electric Company, Franklin, WI; Consolidated Edison Company, New York, NY

* On-Ramp Wireless, Inc. (San Diego, CA) will develop and demonstrate a wireless grid sensor and faulted circuit indicator capable of monitoring underground and other hard-to-reach distribution circuit locations. The goal for this project is to develop and demonstrate tools that will enhance the reliability of distribution grids, improve system performance and maintenance, and enable future remote monitoring applications. A demonstration will be conducted on San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison distribution systems. DOE funding: $2,135,492; Total Project Value: $2,753,826.

Project Team Members: Schweitzer Engineering Labs, Lake Zurich, IL and Pullman, WA; San Diego Gas & Electric, San Diego, CA; Southern California Edison, Rosemead, CA

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