NSF to Invest $18.5 Million in Green Grid Technologies
September 10, 2008
The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced on September 8 that it will establish a new NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) at North Carolina State University for power grid technologies that can effectively integrate renewable energy and energy storage systems. The new "NSF ERC for Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management Systems," or FREEDM systems for short, will develop a new, distributed power grid network that will permit any combination and scale of energy sources and storage devices to be connected to the grid through standard grid-interface modules. This "Internet for energy" will work as a "plug-and-play" system to make it easy to sell excess energy from renewable energy systems to power companies. NSF will invest about $18.5 million in the new ERC over the next five years.
Since 1985, the NSF's ERC program has fostered broad-based research and education collaborations in close partnership with industry. The new NSF ERC for FREEDM Systems will be based at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, in partnership with four other U.S. universities and with contributions from universities in Germany and Switzerland. The ERC will work with more than 65 industry partners, including many small start-up firms, as well as 18 state and local government organizations in Arizona, California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, and Tennessee. See the press releases from NSF and North Carolina State University, as well as the new FREEDM Systems Center Web site.
If there was any question that power grids are an essential part of renewable energy development, it was settled in late August, when two wind power developers snatched up 585 megawatts of transmission capacity on the planned 850-megawatt Wyoming-Colorado Intertie Project. GreenHunter Wind Company, LLC and Duke Energy Ohio, Inc. plan to develop wind projects near Chugwater, Wyoming, delivering the power to consumers in Colorado. According to the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority (WIA), the two companies had the only winning bids on the proposed transmission line. Renewable energy developers have also had long waits to gain access to existing transmission lines, particularly in California and the Midwest. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued guidance for possible interconnection queue reforms in March, and in July and August, it allowed reforms to the process for the California and Midwest grid operators, which are called "independent system operators" or ISOs. See the WIA press release (PDF 113 KB), the FERC Generator Interconnection Web page, and the press releases from the California ISO (PDF 81 KB) and Midwest ISO (PDF 48 KB). Download Adobe Reader.