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  6.  | Intelligent Energy Systems Awarded $1.4M to Integrate Rural Grids

Intelligent Energy Systems Awarded $1.4M to Integrate Rural Grids

Jun 6, 2024 | Energy, Engineering, Featured, News

A crew installed a solar array in Akiachak, a community likely to benefit from more sophisticated controls to integrate its power systems for easier manageability.

Intelligent Energy Systems

Anchorage-based Intelligent Energy Systems (IES) is one of six organizations receiving a total of eight grants from the US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Electricity. The package of grants, totaling $10.5 million, supports multi-year research, development, and demonstration projects aimed at bringing replicable microgrid solutions to rural and indigenous communities, with the goal of providing low-cost, clean energy to all Americans.

IES will use its funding to create control systems that will help remote communities manage different generating equipment so the entire power utility works effectively.

Making Lower-Cost Energy Easy

“Every remote community is expecting to transition away from fossil fuels over the next thirty years. This shift is driven by clean energy incentives and coupled with persistent advances and cost reductions in power electronics, energy storage, wind and solar PV, as well as new integration options and business models,” IES states in its Project Objective sheet in support of the grant. “At the nexus of this transition is the need for a standardized microgrid control system which can be scaled to fit a range of remote communities, a variety of existing and new equipment, and can be deployed cost effectively, serviced and upgraded easily.”

IES has been working in rural Alaska, developing community-scale renewable energy microgrid systems, for nearly two decades. This year will mark fifteen microgrid systems installed and operating in the past twelve years. But the work is just beginning, IES leaders say.

More than 180 Alaska communities rely on community power systems, with different sizes, equipment, designs, and configurations. What they have in common is that all are focused on transitioning away from diesel generators and to clean energy sources.

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State and federal funding has made the transition to low-carbon energy sources achievable. But bringing different generating equipment into a community without a method to easily blend them into a manageable system poses problems. That’s where IES’ DOE-funded project comes in.

“Part of the thing that’s interesting about this controller is that it’s linked with mobile survey tools. Dennis [Meiners, principal of IES] and his team created iPad apps to be used within the communities by local residents to identify where there are needs for greater efficiency,” says Tara O’Hanley, who consulted for IES on the grant application.

The goal, according to IES’s program objective sheet, is to be able to design and deploy fully tested remote microgrid supervisory control systems in six to eight weeks, with standardized features, that can be installed by the local diesel plant operator and cost less than $50,000.

Part of a National Plan

The goal aligns neatly with what DOE’s Office of Electricity hopes to accomplish with its microgrid solutions grant program.

“Developing and deploying microgrid-enabling technologies and addressing non-technical barriers are essential elements of our commitment to meeting Americans where they are and working with the local resources available to their communities,” says Gene Rodrigues, Assistant Secretary for Electricity.

Other projects selected for the grant program include: 

  • Purdue University, which received $1.4 million to develop a Dynamic and Modular Microgrid System that will be operated in real time with a modular and packetized configuration to enhance operational flexibility and resilience.
  • Standing Rock Renewable Energy Power Authority, which received a $1.4 million grant to change the energy landscape of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe by developing, prototyping, and demonstrating modular microgrid systems with standardized functionalities and advanced black start control. 
  • Guam Power Authority, which received nearly $1 million to develop, test, and demonstrate a modular microgrid control system that will standardize the development of control and communication of modular microgrids.
  • Alliance for Sustainable Energy, which received three grant awards, including: 
      • $1.5 million to reduce the cost and timeline of field integration of microgrid controllers by standardizing key software components
      • $2 million to develop a vendor-agnostic universal controller to address challenges related to integration and interoperability between multiple vendor products, microgrid controllers and distributed energy resources while supporting remote microgrid connectivity
      • $545,960 to accelerate modernization of the energy workforce and landscape for remote communities by creating a workforce development framework to establish regional initiatives that focus on human and technical capacity building in underserved and indigenous communities. 
  • National Technology & Engineering Solutions of Sandia, which received a $1.3 million grant to create a microgrid controller that will combine advanced situational awareness, socioeconomic factors, and optimization techniques for control of microgrids with high penetrations of distributed energy resources.
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In This Issue
Delivering Anchorage's Promise
June 2024
Welcome to the June 2024 issue, which features our annual Transportation Special Section. We've paired it this year with a focus on the Pacific Northwest and Hawai'i, as Alaska has close ties to both that reach far beyond lines of transportation. Even further out past our Pacific Ocean compatriots and our Canadian neighbors to the east, Alaska's reach extends to India and Singapore. Enjoy this issue that explores many of Alaska's far-flung business dealings.
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