Engineers win Energy Department grants to help develop a reliable, resilient power grid

AMES, Iowa – Two Iowa State University electrical engineers have won grants totaling $2.6 million to help the U.S. Department of Energy improve the country’s power grid.

The Energy Department’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability recently announced seven grants totaling nearly $10 million over three years for early stage research projects designed to help utilities more effectively add solar farms, wind turbines, combustion engines and energy storage systems to the grid – collectively known as distributed energy resources.

These resources “are becoming an increasingly important part of America’s energy mix, and improving sensing and monitoring and modeling will be critical to integrating them into the grid,” said Patricia Hoffman, the acting assistant secretary for the electricity delivery office.

Here’s more about the two projects led by Iowa State engineers (with final grant amounts subject to negotiation):

● $1.4 million from the Energy Department (plus $350,000 in cost-share funding) to a project led by Zhaoyu Wang, an Iowa State assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Wang and other researchers will develop real-time monitoring and modeling of modern power grids, including renewable energy sources, using smart sensors and big-data techniques. The goal is better grid models for utility companies resulting in better system control, reliability and integration of renewable energy.

Project partners include Argonne National Laboratory, Iowa State’s Electric Power Research Center, Siemens Industry, Maquoketa Valley Electric Cooperative, Alliant Energy and Cedar Falls Utilities.

● $1.2 million from the Energy Department (plus $300,000 in cost-share funding) to a project led by Venkataramana Ajjarapu, Iowa State’s David C. Nicholas Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Ajjarapu and his collaborators will address the challenges of adding high levels of intermittent and variable power sources to the grid, mainly wind and solar power. The project is designed to develop advanced grid models that address the reliability and control problems associated with variable energy sources and help utilities understand what kind of delivery guarantees they can make.

Project partners include the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Commonwealth Edison Co., Alliant Energy, Siemens and PJM Interconnection.