DOE Invests $3.5B in Infrastructure Upgrades, Microgrids, and Smart Grid
The federal government is pouring nearly $3.5 billion into 58 projects targeting infrastructure upgrades, microgrids, smart controls, and advanced technologies for integrating renewables.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) unveiled a major $3.46 billion investment in 58 projects that aim to unlock more than 35 GW of renewable energy in 44 states. The selections include a mix of system-hardening upgrades, wildfire and weather resilience measures, and tech deployments for distributed energy resources (DERs), battery energy storage systems (BESS), and microgrids.
A transmission tower. Image used courtesy of Pexels
U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm called it the “largest-ever direct investment” in grid infrastructure, marking the first round of selections under the $10.5 billion Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships (GRIP) program. It’s funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which allocates more than $20 billion for power grid upgrades.
Grid Resilience: System-Hardening and Infrastructure Upgrades
A $109 million project in New Orleans (with a 50-50 federal cost share) will oversee grid upgrades for nearly 49,000 customers in New Orleans. It will harden 97 transmission and 381 distribution structures and deploy a line-hardening and battery backup project to improve resilience in extreme weather events.
Another Louisiana project will streamline emergency response operations to enable better coordination between utility-owned grid infrastructure and backup generation assets. The $498 million program will also establish a network of energy hubs powered by DER microgrids.
In one project totaling $55 million, American Electric Power (AEP) will implement an advanced distribution management system (ADMS) with an operational distributed energy resource management system (DERMS) module to improve critical grid operations and distribution capabilities for its service territory in 11 states. AEP will add several new functions, including fault location, isolation, and service restoration (FLISR) and operations training simulators, to better manage and optimize power distribution. The DERMS will monitor and control DERs’ performance.
In Maryland, a $49 million project will retrofit and harden the distribution system by undergrounding 24.9 miles of infrastructure and replacing 37.9 miles of aging conductors. Four transmission lines will be replaced or fortified with new steel structures, and high-capacity fiber optical wire will be installed for enhanced communications.
Solar facility in Kuaui, Hawaii. Image used courtesy of Hawaii State Energy Office
Other projects target grid-forming technologies. One in Hawaii will add 12 MW battery storage systems and advanced grid-forming inverters to two existing solar plants, creating a hybrid power supply with improved renewable dispatchability. Another Hawaii project will support distributed renewable integration by converting a power plant’s standby generator to use as a synchronous condenser with grid voltage regulation.
Transmission and Interconnection Projects
Several projects aim to expand transmission infrastructure across states. One centered in the Midwest will plan, design, and build five transmission projects using a unique study and assessment model that challenges the conventional interconnection study approach. The new process—funded with $464 million from the federal government and $1.3 billion from the recipients—will assess multiple projects simultaneously rather than in sequential timelines, a benefit poised to speed up interconnection for new renewable generation projects. The program aims to unlock about 30 GW of new generation, mainly wind and solar energy.
Another $145 million project—Wildfire Assessment and Resilience for Networks (WARN)—will fund wildfire mitigation measures among 39 small, rural electric co-ops in high-threat states like California, Arizona, and New Mexico. WARN’s members will harden their transmission networks with fire-resistant grid infrastructure, place lines underground, and upgrade overhead lines. Co-op grid designers will receive an analysis tool to measure the expected impacts of utility-ignited wildfires on the regional electricity supply.
Another $104 million project will expand the capacity of HVDC converter terminals from 500 MW to 1.5 GW to integrate clean energy resources in North Dakota and Minnesota. Focusing on regional transmission planning, it aims to unlock an additional 5 to 7 GW of clean energy transmission capacity from North Dakota to nearby areas.
Other projects will tackle interregional interconnection. For example, Alaska’s Railbelt Innovation Resiliency Project will use a BESS and HVDC submarine cable to boost transfer capacity and advanced system regulation management for higher renewable energy integration on the grid.
Selected projects focused on integrating renewable energy resources. Image used courtesy of DOE
Microgrids and Smart Grid Technology
Georgia’s Environmental Finance Authority and a group of electric cooperatives received $249 million (with $258 million in cost-sharing) to fund smart grid infrastructure upgrades incorporating battery storage, local microgrids, advanced grid control systems, and reliability improvements with 80 miles of new transmission lines serving 17 substations. The program will install 25 MW for four hours of battery storage and another 75 MW for four hours of large-scale storage.
Map of selected microgrid projects. Image used courtesy of DOE (Slide 15)
Another project in New Mexico will add a BESS and microgrid capabilities in three locations, allowing the electric cooperative to operate safety shut-offs while maintaining critical loads and services with strategically placed BESS and solar systems.
Some projects will focus on load flexibility. For example, the $139 million Future Grid Project supports National Grid’s ongoing modernization investments in advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) ADMS, DERMS, and FLISR investments in New York and Massachusetts. The new funding allows the company to add new components such as network-adaptive DER connections, enhanced FLISR-DER integration, and substation edge computing. Among its anticipated outcomes, the project will improve DERs’ flexibility for critical load balancing functions and streamline smart tech interoperability to monitor and control distribution systems in real-time.
A pair of projects in three states will deploy a digital power flow control system called SmartValve to increase transmission transfer capacity. The Vermont project will use SmartValve to optimize its cross-border flows while reducing maintenance and outage costs for existing phase-shifting transformers along the New York border. In Illinois and Texas, another project will boost transmission capacity by 300 MW through rerouting power flows and increasing renewable output and interconnection capabilities.
The company behind the tech, Smart Wires, describes SmartValve as an alternative to physical series capacitors or inductors. The single-phase modular-static synchronous series compensator (M-SSSC) pushes power off overloaded lines or pulls power onto underutilized lines via injected voltage.
Smart Wires’ SmartValve power flow control system will be used in two federally funded grid resilience projects. Image used courtesy of Smart Wires
A smart grid project in Pennsylvania, Grid of the Future, will deploy advanced automation and monitoring technologies to support DER integration, including a two-way power flow model and AI-enabled analytics to monitor outages and forecast demand changes.
The Connected Clean PowerCity project in Sacramento, California, will install several renewable integration technologies over the next five years, including 200,000 smart meters and distributed intelligence applications, along with new AI-based DERMS supporting the transition from one-way centralized systems to two-way decentralized DERs. Up to 100 miles of fiber optic cable will support the DERMS’s control and data quality. Another 22,500 intelligent two-way load control sensors and switches will cycle air conditioning loads on or off during outages.
In May 2022, Lake Worth Beach Electric Utility added a new switching station with advanced technologies such as voltage regulators and fault current limiting devices. Image used courtesy of Lake Worth Beach Electric Utility
Florida’s City of Lake Worth Beach will install over 60 reclosers and other sectionalizing devices to rebalance the electrical system, integrate BES for community solar projects, and install fiber optics connections, AMI, and a meter data management system. Those five improvements will unlock 7 MW of solar capacity, expand communications, and ultimately lead to fewer outages and quicker restoration.
The funding supports the city’s ongoing System Hardening and Reliability Improvement Program, which added a new electric switching station last year incorporating redundant feeders, voltage regulators, fault current limiting devices, outdoor magnetically actuated circuit breakers, and other advanced technologies.