Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that the University of Texas at Austin was selected to participate in the early stages of the department’s Grid Modernization Initiative. The initiative is designed to build the “grid of the future.”
The total investment for the initiative rounds out to nearly $10 million, with the total value of UT’s project equalling $2,100,700. UT’s Center for Electromechanics in the Cockrell School of Engineering will lead the project in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, Vervolt, National Instruments, and the Pedernales Electric Cooperative. Other organizations and institutions leading projects in the initiative are the Palo Alto Research Center, Georgia Tech Research Corporation, and Iowa State University of Science and Technology (which will lead two projects). The projects in the initiative are focusing on either sensors or advanced grid modeling, which UT detailed on the school’s website:
The projects are intended to help utilities advance and expand their distributed energy resources (DERs), such as solar photovoltaics, combustion engines and energy storage systems onto the grid. This will help transform the grid from a one-way street into a two-way street for the flow of electricity.
Distributed energy resources are an increasingly important part of America’s energy mix, and improved sensing and monitoring, along with new modeling capabilities, will be critical for the ongoing national effort to invent a new grid that is less costly and more reliable.
UT Austin’s project, titled “Advanced Intelligent Sensor Development and Demonstration for Future Distribution Systems with High Penetration DERs,” will be in the “sensors” part of the initiative, focusing on working with existing and upcoming grid monitoring systems to improve how they work with distributed energy resources and other demands on a modern grid system. The project zero in on improving electrical grids in rural part of Texas and the U.S.
“Augmenting and modernizing the legacy electric grid while continuing to maintain reliable electrical service is a lot like rebuilding a ship while at sea. There’s a huge downside if you don’t do it right,” Bob Hebner, Center for Electromechanics director and a research professor in the Cockrell School’s department of mechanical engineering, said in the post. “That’s why we are proud to be part of a government-industry-university team with the skill and experience to preserve the best of the past while capturing the benefit of emerging capabilities.”