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U.S. Energy Dept.: Big opportunities to make Puerto Rico’s grid smarter, more resilient

By on May 9, 2018

SAN JUAN – In an article published Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Department said that when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico last year, “it took the entire island’s power grid with it.” Although power has been restored to more than 95% of it, “the rebuilding process is far from finished,” it added.

Explaining that although “many challenges remain,” the article says that “to build a smarter and more resilient grid, new options like DERs [distributed energy resources], microgrids, and integrated operations systems need to be evaluated” to “help inform strategic decisions that will shape” the local “grid for years to come.”

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa)  has partnered with the New York State Smart Grid Consortium (NYSSGC), a public-private partnership focusing on grid modernization, and ProsumerGrid, an Atlanta-based firm that developed specialized software, with funding from the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), to simulate the integration of DERs–such as solar panels, generators, wind turbines and battery systems–into an electric grid.

The software also takes into account distribution system operators (DSOs), which run the networks that distribute the outsourced power to where it is needed.  It simulates the operation of “massive amounts of DERs and emerging DSOs at the physical, information, and market levels,” and provides a “studio environment with adjustable parameters, allowing experts to develop novel grid designs tailor-made for their strategic objectives and policy requirements.”

Prosumer data tool by ARPA-e

(Screen capture of ProsumerGrid’s modeling studio)

The Energy Department says NYSSGC and ProsumerGrid will use data from the grid to determine “a set of technology and policy options for the power system, including the integration of DERs, microgrids, and advanced technologies.”

ProsumerGrid’s “expertise and modeling tools, developed with support from ARPA-E,” will be used to develop “solutions for the recovering grid.”

The department adds that ARPA-E supports several energy-storage and smarter transmission- and distribution-system projects, and has launched in the past decade several programs with the objective of modernizing the U.S. grid.

Among these are the projects of NODES, which develop ways to manage more renewable resources on the grid by using “virtual storage,” which balances the grid using distributed resources, while GRIDS “sought to develop new energy storage solutions to improve grid resilience for an investment cost of less than $100/kWh.” GRID DATA teams, the department said, “are developing sophisticated power system models for use in the development and testing of optimization and control algorithms that can enhance grid resiliency and flexibility.”

ARPA-E’s DAYS program will “charge teams with developing new forms of long-duration stationary electricity storage systems. These technologies will enhance grid resiliency, provide low-cost energy capacity, support grid infrastructure, and enable a greater share of intermittent renewable resources in the generation mix,” the DOE’s article reads.

See ARPA-E’s project portfolio to learn more.

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