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ProsumerGrid, Inc.

Distribution System Operator Simulation Studio

ProsumerGrid, with its partners, will develop a highly specialized and interactive software tool capable of simulating the operation of emerging DSOs at the physical, information, and market levels while capturing the interactions among the various market participants. The software will offer electricity industry analysts, engineers, economists, and policy makers a "design studio environment" in which various propositions of participant roles, market rules, business processes, and services exchange can be studied to achieve a robust DSO design. The software will utilize a powerful decentralized decision-making algorithm, and extend state-of-the-art grid solvers with the ability to develop DER scheduling, DSO market rules, and energy service transactions. The tool could ensure correctness and reduce risk in upcoming regulatory decisions as various states move towards the formation of DSOs.

RamGoss, Inc.

Development of High-Performance Gallium Nitride Transistors

RamGoss is using innovative device designs and high-performance materials to develop utility-scale electronic switches that would significantly outperform today's state-of-the-art devices. Switches are the fundamental building blocks of electronic devices, controlling the electrical energy that flows around an electrical circuit. Today's best electronic switches for large power applications are bulky and inefficient, which leads to higher cost and wasted power. RamGoss is optimizing new, low-cost materials and developing a new, completely different switch designs. Combined, these innovations would increase the efficiency and reduce the overall size and cost of power converters for a variety of electronic devices and grid-scale applications, including electric vehicle (EV) chargers, large-scale wind plants, and solar power arrays.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

High-Voltage, Bi-Directional MOS-Gated SiC Power Switches for Smart Grid Utility Applications

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is working to develop and demonstrate a new bi-directional transistor switch that would significantly simplify the power conversion process for high-voltage, high-power electronics systems. A transistor switch helps control electricity, converting it from one voltage to another or from an Alternating Current (A/C) to a Direct Current (D/C). High-power systems, including solar and wind plants, usually require multiple switches to convert energy into electricity that can be transmitted through the grid. These multi-level switch configurations are costly and complex, which drives down their overall efficiency and reliability. RPI's new switch would require fewer components than conventional high-power switches. This simple design would in turn simplify the overall power conversion process and enable renewable energy sources to more easily connect to the grid.

Sandia National Laboratory

ARC-SAFE: Accelerated Response Semiconducting Contactors and Surge Attenuation for DC Electrical systems

Sandia National Laboratories will develop a solid-state circuit breaker for medium to high voltage applications based on a gallium nitride (GaN) optically triggered, photoconductive semiconductor switch (PCSS). During normal operation, the current will flow through high-performance commercial silicon carbide (SiC) devices to achieve high efficiency. When a fault occurs, the fast-response GaN PCSS will be used to break the current. The concept builds on Sandia's knowledge of optically triggered GaN devices, as well as the team's experience in circuit design for MV applications. The GaN PCSS will enable high-voltage operation, potentially scalable from 1 to 100 kV, while achieving superior electrical isolation due to the optical triggering approach. This technology could contribute to more widespread adoption of MVDC power distribution across the grid.

Sandia National Laboratory

Transformers for a Modernized Grid

Sandia National Laboratory

MVDC/HVDC Power Conversion with Optically-Controlled GaN Switches

Sandia National Laboratories will develop a new type of switch, a 100kV optically controlled switch (often called photoconductive semiconductor switch or PCSS), based on the WBG semiconductors GaN and AlGaN. The capabilities of the PCSS will be demonstrated in high-voltage circuits for medium and high voltage direct current (MVDC/HVDC) power conversion for grid applications. Photoconductivity is the measure of a material's response to the energy inherent in light radiation. The electrical conductivity of a photoconductive material increases when it absorbs light. The team will first measure the photoconductive properties of GaN and AlGaN in order to assess if they operate similarly to gallium arsenide, a conventional semiconductor material used for PCSS, demonstrating sub-bandgap optical triggering and low-field, high-gain avalanche providing many times as many carriers by the electric field as created by the optical trigger. These two effects provide a tremendous reduction in the optical trigger energy required to activate the switch. The team will then design and fabricate GaN and AlGaN-based photoconductive semiconductor switches. The team predicts that WBG PCSS will outperform their predecessors with higher switch efficiency, the ability to switch at higher voltages, and will turn-off and recover faster, allowing for a higher frequency of switching. Ultimately, this will enable high-voltage switch assemblies (50-500kV) that can be triggered from a single, small driver (e.g. semiconductor laser). These modules will be substantially smaller (~10x) and simpler than existing modules used in grid-connected power electronics, allowing the realization of inexpensive and efficient switch modules that can be used in DC to AC power conversion systems on the grid at distribution and transmission scales.

Sandia National Laboratory

Improved Power System Operations Using Advanced Stochastic Optimization

Sandia National Laboratories is working with several commercial and university partners to develop software for market management systems (MMSs) that enable greater use of renewable energy sources throughout the grid. MMSs are used to securely and optimally determine which energy resources should be used to service energy demand across the country. Contributions of electricity to the grid from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are intermittent, introducing complications for MMSs, which have trouble accommodating the multiple sources of price and supply uncertainties associated with bringing these new types of energy into the grid. Sandia's software will bring a new, probability-based formulation to account for these uncertainties. By factoring in various probability scenarios for electricity production from renewable energy sources in real time, Sandia's formula can reduce the risk of inefficient electricity transmission, save ratepayers money, conserve power, and support the future use of renewable energy.

Siemens Corporate Technology

Renew100 - Reliable Power System Operation with 100% Renewable Generation

Siemens will develop an operator support system and grid planning functionality that enable a power system to operate with 100% inverter-based renewable generation from wind and solar. ReNew100 features automatic Controller Parameter Optimization and model calibration technologies that help ensure power system reliability as the generation mix changes. Successful test results will be a milestone toward the goal of a stable and reliable power system obtaining a majority of total electrical energy sourced from variable wind and solar.

Silicon Power Corporation

Optically-Switched 15kV SiC Single-Bias High-Frequency Thyristor

Silicon Power is developing a semiconducting device that switches high-power and high-voltage electricity using optical signals as triggers for the switches, instead of conventional signals carried through wires. A switch helps control electricity, converting it from one voltage or current to another. High-power systems generally require multiple switches to convert energy into electricity that can be transmitted through the grid. These multi-level switch configurations use many switches which may be costly and inefficient. Additionally, most switching mechanisms use silicon, which cannot handle the high switching frequencies or voltages that high-power systems demand. Silicon Power is using light to trigger its switching mechanisms, which could greatly simplify the overall power conversion process. Additionally, Silicon Power's switching device is made of silicon carbide instead of straight silicon, which is more efficient and allows it to handle higher frequencies and voltages.

Smart Wire Grid, Inc.

Distributed Power Flow Control Using Smart Wires for Energy Routing

Smart Wire Grid is developing a solution for controlling power flow within the electric grid to better manage unused and overall transmission capacity. The 300,000 miles of high-voltage transmission line in the U.S. today are congested and inefficient, with only around 50% of all transmission capacity utilized at any given time. Increased consumer demand should be met in part with a more efficient and economical power flow. Smart Wire Grid's devices clamp onto existing transmission lines and control the flow of power within--much like how internet routers help allocate bandwidth throughout the web. Smart wires could support greater use of renewable energy by providing more consistent control over how that energy is routed within the grid on a real-time basis. This would lessen the concerns surrounding the grid's inability to effectively store intermittent energy from renewables for later use.

Stanford University

Open and Scalable Distributed Energy Resource Networks

Stanford University will develop Powernet, an open-source and open architecture platform for scalable and secure coordination of consumer flexible load and DERs. Powernet will be based on the principle of connecting information networks to the power network (connecting bits and watts). It uses a layered architecture that enables real-time coordination of centralized resources with millions of DERs by integrating embedded sensing and computing, power electronics, and networking with cloud computing. The team will develop a Home Hub system capable of networking with existing inverters and appliances in a home and controlling power via smart switches that replace traditional fuses. The Home Hub will also use algorithms for aggregating local customer resources to meet local constraints and global coordination objectives. A cloud-based cloud coordinator platform will be developed that executes optimization and monitoring functions to coordinate Home Hubs by minimizing costs while increasing aggregate consumer quality-of-service.

Switched Source LLC

Unified Power Flow Controller

Switched Source will develop a power-electronics based hardware solution to fortify electric distribution systems, with the goal of delivering cost-effective infrastructure retrofits to match rapid advancements in energy generation and consumption. The company's power flow controller will improve capabilities for routing electricity between neighboring distribution circuit feeders, so that grid operators can utilize the system as a more secure, reliable, and efficient networked platform. The topology the team is incorporating into its controller will eliminate the need for separate heavy and expensive transformers, as well as the costly construction of new distribution lines and substations in many cases. The power flow controller's low weight and small size means that it can be installed anywhere in the existing grid to optimize energy distribution and help reduce congestion. If successful, implementation of Switched Source's power flow controller will also significantly increase hosting capacity and connectivity for distributed renewable generation. During a prior ARPA-E GENI award, this team developed this platform technology. Now, as an addition to the ARPA-E CIRCUITS program, the team will further its research.

Texas Engineering Experiment Station

Robust Adaptive Topology Control (RATC)

Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) is using topology control as a mechanism to improve system operations and manage disruptions within the electric grid. The grid is subject to interruption from cascading faults caused by extreme operating conditions, malicious external attacks, and intermittent electricity generation from renewable energy sources. The Robust Adaptive Topology Control (RATC) system is capable of detecting, classifying, and responding to grid disturbances by reconfiguring the grid in order to maintain economically efficient operations while guaranteeing reliability. The RATC system would help prevent future power outages, which account for roughly $80 billion in losses for businesses and consumers each year. Minimizing the time it takes for the grid to respond to expensive interruptions will also make it easier to integrate intermittent renewable energy sources into the grid.

University of California, Berkeley

Micro-Synchrophasors for Distribution Systems

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) is developing a device to monitor and measure electric power data from the grid's distribution system. The new instrument--known as a micro-phasor measurement unit (µPMU)--is designed to measure critical parameters such as voltage and phase angle at different locations, and correlate them in time via extremely precise GPS clocks. The amount of phase angle difference provides information about the stability and direction of power flow. Data collected from a network of these µPMUs would facilitate better monitoring and control of grid power flow--a critical element for integrating intermittent and renewable resources, such as rooftop solar and wind energy, and other technologies such as electric vehicles and distributed storage.

University of California, San Diego

Distributed Grid Control of Flexible Loads and DERs for Optimized Provision of Synthetic Regulation Reserves 

The University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) will develop coordination algorithms and software using intelligent control and optimization for flexible load and DERs to provide reliable frequency regulation services for the bulk power grid. The project will develop a multi-layer framework for larger-scale energy aggregators to act on behalf of their smaller-sized customers to help respond to incoming requests from regional transmission operators. The team will develop approaches that aggregators can use to quantify reserves, system objectives and constraints, customer usage patterns, and generation forecasts. Aggregators will use distributed coordination algorithms to rapidly respond to operators while considering network constraints and quality of services for customers. The UC San Diego technology to manage flexible loads and DERs offers economic and operational advantages for utilities, operators and customers.

University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign

Cyber-Physical Modeling and Analysis for a Smart and Resilient Grid

The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is developing scalable grid modeling, monitoring, and analysis tools that would improve its resiliency to system failures as well as cyber attacks, which can significantly improve the reliability of grid operations. Power system operators today lack the ability to assess the grid's reliability with respect to potential cyber failures and attacks. UIUC is using theoretical and practical techniques from both the cyber security and power engineering domains to develop new algorithms and software tools capable of analyzing real-world threats against power grid critical infrastructures including cyber components (e.g. communication networks), physical components (e.g. power lines), and interdependencies between the two in its models and simulations.Continuing the project work started by UIUC, Avista Utilities is now developing technology to automatically extract and map electrical switch information to generate cyber-physical models. These cyber-physical models can be used to identify network vulnerabilities as well as identify and prioritize critical assets which will allow utilities and others to conduct simulations, perform analysis, and fortify networks against cyber-attacks.

University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign

Synthetic Data for Power Grid R&D

The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), with partners from Cornell University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Arizona State University will develop a set of entirely synthetic electric transmission system models. Their 10 open-source system models and associated scenarios will match the complexity of the actual power grid. By utilizing statistics derived from real data, the team's models will have coordinates based on North American geography with network structure, characteristics, and consumer demand that mimics real grid profiles. Smaller models will be based on smaller areas, such as part of a U.S. state, while the large models will cover much of the continent. All models and their scenarios will be validated using security-constrained optimal power flows, with parameters tuned to emulate the statistical characteristics of actual transmission system models.

University of Michigan

Overcoming the Technical Challenges of Coordinating Distributed Load Resources at Scale

The University of Michigan will develop load-control strategies to improve grid reliability in the face of increased penetration of DERs and low-cost renewable generation. As the electricity generation mix changes to include more renewables and DERs, load shifting is essential. Today, there are few load-shifting strategies in use at grid scale that are capable of balancing current levels of intermittent energy production. The team will develop three testing environments to identify issues the grid faces with increased levels of energy from distributed and renewable generation. Their method could improve credibility for load-control mechanisms at scale and lower costs to power providers and consumers alike.

University of Michigan

High Fidelity, Year Long Power Network Data Sets for Replicable Power System Research

The University of Michigan, with partners from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the California Institute of Technology, and Columbia University, will develop a transmission system data set with greater reliability, size, and scope compared to current models. The project combines existing power systems data with advanced obfuscation techniques to anonymize the data while still creating realistic models. In addition, the project delivers year-long test cases that capture grid network behavior over time, enabling the analysis of optimization algorithms over different time scales. These realistic datasets will be used to develop synthetic test cases to examine the scalability and robustness of optimization algorithms. The team is also developing a new format for capturing power system model data using JavaScript Object Notation and will provide open-source tools for data quality control and validation, format translation, synthetic test case generation, and obfuscation. Finally, the project aims at developing an infrastructure for ensuring replicable research and easing experimentation, using the concept of virtual machines to enable comparison of algorithms as hardware and software evolve over time.

University of Minnesota

Enabling the Grid of the Future

The University of Minnesota (UMN) will develop a comprehensive approach that addresses the challenges to system reliability and power quality presented by widespread renewable power generation. By developing techniques for both centralized cloud-based and distributed peer-to-peer networks, the proposed system will enable coordinated response of many local units to adjust consumption and generation of energy, satisfy physical constraints, and provide ancillary services requested by a grid operator. The project will apply concepts from nonlinear and robust control theory to design self-organizing power systems that effectively respond to the grid events and variability. A key feature enabled by the proposed methodology is a flexible plug-and-play architecture wherein devices and small power networks can easily engage or disengage from other power networks or the grid. The project's design approach will be tested across many different scenarios while using more than 100 actual physical devices such as photovoltaics, battery storage inverters, and home appliances.


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